SCOTLAND’S life sciences sector has received a £1.1 million funding boost aimed at expanding the range of livestock gene research carried out at the Roslin Institute in Midlothian.
The cash injection, from the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), will enable the Ark Genomics facility at Roslin to invest in new technologies used in the research of genetic factors that influence animal production, health and food safety.
Genomics plays an important role in examining how livestock can be bred to be resistant to diseases, helping to improve yields and tackle the issues caused by a growing global population.
The Ark Genomics laboratory has close ties with commercial partners and supports more than 1,000 scientists around the world.
Its director, Mick Watson, said the investment from the BBSRC would help the facility to remain “at the forefront of livestock genomics, both in the UK and globally”.
He added: “The BBSRC recognises the importance of genetics and genomics to solve problems in the world’s food system, and Ark Genomics is key to the delivery of impact in animal health and food security in the UK.”
The Roslin Institute shot to international fame in 1996 when a team led by Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell created Dolly the sheep – the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell. Last year, researchers announced they had developed chickens that had been genetically modified to prevent them from spreading bird flu to other chickens, potentially reducing the risk of outbreaks among humans.
Professor David Hume, director of the Roslin Institute, said the new funding would enable Ark to build on the partnerships it has already built with facilities such as the National Institute of Animal Biotechnology in Hyderabad, India, and BGI in China – the world’s largest genomics sequencing centre.
He added: “The funding awarded by the BBSRC is a real boost in support of these and other partnerships for the UK science base. The funding is also key in maintaining the UK’s strong international standing in the increasingly important genomics sector.”
Funded by the UK government, the BBSRC has an annual budget of around £445m. It awarded £23m to Roslin last year as part of a £250m package aimed at strengthening the UK’s position in the bioscience arena.
The BBSRC also provides strategic funding for the Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) in Norwich, which collaborates with the Roslin Institute and enables scientists funded by the research council to access cutting-edge genetic technologies.
Deputy director Mario Caccamo, who is also head of bio- informatics at TGAC, said: “We are looking forward to continuing working with Ark Genomics, complementing our strengths to enable scientific excellence and to develop a sustainable bioeconomy driven by innovation.” Scotland’s life sciences industry employs more than 32,500 people and is worth some £3.1 billion a year to the nation’s economy, according to Scottish Enterprise.