The UK and International Veterinary Vaccinology Network Conference was hosted at the Tower Hotel on 9-10th January 2019. This was the final conference for the UK Veterinary Vaccinology Network grant and the first conference in the UK for the GCRF funded International Veterinary Vaccinology Network (Their inaugural conference being held in Nairobi earlier this year). Over 200 participants from around the globe made it to the two-day conference, whilst over 250 people from 28 countries joined via live streaming of the event (a first for both networks).
Almost 5 years ago the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) hosted a vaccinology workshop inviting experts in the UK vaccinology field to discuss funding a community with three key research aims: developing novel tools and technologies, addressing unmet needs in protective immunity and immunogen design. Research development and collaboration with these aims in mind would be overseen through a range of network activities. Out of these discussions the UK Veterinary Vaccinology Network was funded for five years by the BBSRC.
For the last four years the network has built of base of over 600 members using it’s website, twitter and newsletter as communicating platforms. It has hosted five conferences across the UK (Birmingham 2015, Manchester 2016, Belfast 2017, Stirling 2018, London 2019), as well as a variety of workshops to aid in understanding the research landscape in different fields of vaccinology; identifying gaps and priorities and supporting career development.
This year the UK and International Veterinary Vaccinology Network conference was hosted in central London with the Tower bridge as a fantastic backdrop. The conference was split into four themes:
- Vaccines for Ectoparasites
- Vaccine Commercialisation
- Antigen discovery
- Controlling Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) with vaccination
The first day finished with a poster and networking session where early career researchers (ECRs) could present their research (and be judged on it), and in conjunction with the live video streaming of the conference, Arran from Glocast also filmed delegates discussing their own vaccinology research and how the networks have benefited them as members.
Finally, Dr Nicoline de Haan from the International Livestock Research Institute in Kenya provided the keynote presentation on ‘The factors affecting the livelihood of small holder farmers in LMICs’, a welcome presentation for addressing the International Veterinary Vaccinology Network aims.
Over the last four years the UK network has fostered relationships with other International groups: a brilliant example of this was co-hosting the European Veterinary Vaccinology workshops with the Horizon2020 projects SAPHIR (Strengthening Animal Production and Health through the immune responses) and Paragone (developing parasite vaccines). These workshops brought together researchers from all stages of their vaccinology careers in an informal setting. With the help of Professor Bruno Gooederts who acted as a challenger between presenters and the delegation, lively debates and questioning were had between ECRs and senior researchers.
The UK network has specifically championed two focused groups targeting the three main research aims of the UK VetVacNet:
The Immunological Toolbox lead by Professor John Hammond (The Pirbright Institute) and Professor Jayne Hope (The Roslin Institute) which aim to identify gaps in the current portfolio of immunological tools that are required to address scientific priorities; build an online database to incorporate all information of known reagents (website to go live early 2019); as well as develop new reagents based on community needs.
The Comparative Immunology Group is a British Society of Immunology affinity group which has recently been revived. Led by Dr Elma Tchilian (The Pirbright Institute) as the chairperson, it’s aim is to bring together veterinary, mouse and human immunologists to discuss, collaborate and exchange ideas in the field of immunology. The UK Veterinary Vaccinology helped fund the inaugural meeting ‘Frontiers in Human and Veterinary Antibody Discovery’ as well as Non-conventional T cells in Health and Disease which was a satellite meeting to the conference in London.
The UK Veterinary Vaccinology Network will continue to be funded until the end of 2019, which includes funding for several final workshops. The basis of the community that has been built from the UK network enabled the successful application for the GCRF (MRC and BBSRC) International Veterinary Vaccinology Network (IVVN) which is now 16 months in and will continue to support activities such as conferences and workshops. The IVVN will also fund pump-prime grants, lab exchanges and scholarships specifically with a remit for addressing challenges in vaccinology for priority livestock and zoonotic diseases impacting low middle-income countries (LMICs).
Please continue to be a member of both networks, particularly the IVVN as their activities continue. The official conference report, presentations and video recordings will be made available in the foreseeable future and will be communicated via our communication platforms (website, twitter @VetVaccNet @IntVetVaccNet and newsletters).