A SCOTTISH life sciences company has won a share of £4.8 million in European Union funding to help develop vaccines for fish including salmon, trout and turbot.
Edinburgh-based Big DNA has created medicines that can be administered by simply immersing the fish into a tank of water containing the vaccine.
At present, vaccines are injected into fish using needles, which can damage the creatures’ skin.
Fish farms employ about 65,000 people throughout Europe and together turn over about £2.4 billion a year.
Salmon farms alone employ more than 2,100 workers in Scotland, with Scottish Government figures suggesting that a further 6,200 jobs rely on the aquaculture industry.
Under the EU’s five-year “Targetfish” programme, Big DNA will work with 30 companies and universities across 14 countries.
Other Scottish participants include Aberdeen and Stirling universities and the Scottish Government’s Marine Scotland agency.
A pair of English companies – Berkshire-based Ridgeway Biologicals and Essex-based Tethys Aquaculture – are also taking part in the project.
Other fish being targeted by the programme include common carp, sea bass and sea bream.
John March, chief executive at Big DNA, said: “We are delighted to be part of this significant European initiative, which recognises the potential of our vaccine technology for use in applications such as aquaculture.
“This further expands the utility of our platform technology in addition to our core interest in developing human healthcare products.”
Rhona Alison, senior director of life sciences at Scottish Enterprise, added: “This news is very exciting for both Scottish life sciences and Big DNA. The level of Scottish participation as a whole in this European programme underlines the strength of the aquaculture sector here and builds on Scotland’s increasing reputation as a leading international hub of life sciences expertise.”
News of the fish vaccine project emerged just weeks after a spin-out company from St Andrews University revealed that it had launched equipment to protect fish in the Firth of Forth.
SMRU’s PAMBuoy acoustic devices have been deployed around the legs of the Forth Road Bridge to monitor noise levels during the construction of the Forth replacement crossing. If the noise rises to a level at which it could harm lamprey and salmon swimming up the firth, work will be halted.