The disease is caused by one of the most contagious viruses in mammals, affecting cattle, sheep, goats and pigs, and inflicted severe damage on the UK livestock industries during outbreaks in 2001 and 2007.
The five-year Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) funded project will bring together researchers from the Universities of St Andrews, Leeds, Edinburgh, Dundee and the Pirbright Institute to improve diagnosis and develop a new generation of vaccines.
Dr Nicola Stonehouse, from the University of Leeds School of Molecular and Cellular Biology, said: "Foot-and-mouth disease is still, especially in this part of the country, a very emotive thing to talk about. However, it is an accident waiting to happen because you have so much of this disease elsewhere in the world. Animals are trafficked across borders and viruses can blow across the Channel."
Professor David Rowlands, Emeritus Professor of Molecular Virology at Leeds, said:"What we are trying to do is understand the basic biology of the virus so we can use that in order to underpin a new approach to a vaccine. This project is a strategic effort getting together leading UK researchers to address this threat."
Existing foot-and-mouth vaccines must be kept refrigerated and require multiple boosters, which makes them very difficult to administer effectively in parts of the world where foot and mouth is endemic, such as Africa. The virus also has a large array of different strains, which makes concocting a suitable vaccine cocktail even more challenging.
Dr Stonehouse said: The different teams involved in this project will be approaching this big problem from various angles. In Leeds, we are particularly interested in the regulatory regions at both ends of the virus genome. They make up about a seventh of the genome and we do not know what they do. The objective is to tamper with these areas and make a very sick version of the virus that will be able to challenge the animals immune response but not produce the disease.
Professor Martin Ryan of the University of St Andrews, who is leading the project, said the researchers will also attempt to use knowledge of how the virus grows in cells to make a new type of virus that could only grow in specially designed helper cells, meaning the virus could not then grow in animals. This would make the use of existing conventional vaccines a much safer process.
Success would stimulate the routine use of vaccine to control foot-and-mouth disease virus around the globe. This would reduce the global incidence of foot-and-mouth disease with enormous economic and social value worldwide, he said.
Professor Terry Jackson of the Pirbright institute, a BBSRC facility that is the only research centre in the UK allowed to handle the virus in its complete form, said: One of humanitys biggest challenges in coming years will be to meet a growing demand for food. Animal diseases have a major impact on the productivity of the livestock industry and safeguarding animal welfare will be a major component of maximising food production.
Graham Askew, Simon Walker, BBSRC (Jan 2018), £699,781
Jennifer Tomlinson, Royal Society (Jan 2018), £512,801
Michelle Peckham, Neil Ransom, MRC (Nov 2017), £495,159
Dave Lewis, British Council India (Nov 2017), £22,540
Elton Zeqiraj, Royal Society (Nov 2017), £15,000
Hannah Dugdale, Royal Society (Nov 2017), £15,000
Shaunna Burke, Cancer Research UK Innovation Grant (Nov 2017), £20,000
Alex O'Neill and colleagues in Chemistry, BBSRC (Nov 2017), £431,865
Jessica Kwok, Wings for Life (Nov 2017), £87,365
Tom Bennett, BBSRC (Oct 2017), £523,679
Neil Ranson, Darren Tomlinson, BBSRC (Oct 2017), £494,318
Nikita Gamper, BBSRC (Oct 2017), £490,426
Amanda Bretman and colleagues from UEA, NERC (Oct 2017), £430,886
Juan Fontana, Rosetrees Trust consumables grant (Oct 2017), £22,500
Helen Miller, DSM Nutritional Products AG (Sep 2017), £69,988
Neil Ranson, Juan Fontana, Mark Harris, Michelle Peckham, Ralf Richter, Peter Stockley, Patricija Van Oosten-Hawle and colleagues in Engineering, FMH and MAPS, Wellcome Trust Equipment Call (Sep 2017), £418,000
Jamie Johnston, Physiological Society (Sep 2017), £10,000
Frank Sobott, Adrian Goldman, Mark Harris, Andrew Macdonald, Stephen Muench, Sheena Radford and colleagues in FMH and MAPS, Wellcome Trust Equipment Call (Aug 2017), £415,000
Ralf Richter, David Brockwell, Eric Hewitt, Jessica Kwok, Emanuele Paci and MAPS/FMH, BBSRC (Jun 2017), £600,000
Eric Blair, Adrian Whitehouse, Nicola Stonehouse, Alison Baker, Richard Bayliss, Joan Boyes, Ryan Seipke, Sally Boxall and MAPS/FMH, BBSRC (Jun 2017), £376,000
Stefan Kepinski, Yoselin Benitez-Alfonso, Tom Bennett, Michelle Peckham, BBSRC (Jun 2017), £331,000
Roman Tuma, Lars Jeuken, Paul Millner, Sheena Radford, Peter Stockley and MAPS/FMH, BBSRC (Jun 2017), £222,000
Vas Ponnambalam, Darren Tomlinson, Stephen Wheatcroft, BHF (May 2017), £107,878
Graham Askew in collaboration with Bangor University, BBSRC (Mar 2017), £477,383
Stephen Muench, BBSRC (Mar 2017), £132,945
Nic Stonehouse, MRC (Mar 2017), £906,341
Bill Kunin, Steve Sait, BBSRC (Mar 2017), £602,831
Adrian Goldman, EU (Mar 2017), £546,576
Sheena Radford, Wellcome Trust (Mar 2017), £1,836,482
Beatrice Filippi, Royal Society (Mar 2017), £15,000
Jamie Johnston, Royal Society (Mar 2017), £15,000
Tom Bennett, Royal Society (Mar 2017), £15,000
Ryan Seipke, BBSRC (Feb 2017), £52,116
Mary O'Connell, BBSRC (Feb 2017), £46,986
Hannah Dugdale, NERC (Feb 2017), £504,138
Anastasia Zhuravleva, EPSRC (Jan 2017), £100,792
Richard Bayliss, Cancer Research UK (Jan 2017), £1,600,000
John Barr, EU (Jan 2017), £339,000
Mark Harris, Royal Society (Jan 2017), £250,000
Alison Dunn, NERC (Jan 2017), £105,000
Alex Breeze, Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund (Jan 2017), £180,000
Alison Dunn, NERC (Dec 2016), £18,000
Lisa Collins, BBSRC (Dec 2016), £1,681,835
Brendan Davies, Leverhulme Trust (Dec 2016), £247,555
Alan Benson, Mark Drinkhill, Ed White, British Heart Foundaion (Dec 2016), £217,223
Adrian Goldman, Royal Society (Dec 2016), £82,999
Lisa Roberts, Alex Breeze, Brendan Davies, Timothy Devinney, Oliver Harlen, Joseph Holden, Anthea Hucklesby, Pamela Jones, Philip Mellor, RCUK (Nov 2016), £484,172
Lisa Roberts, Alex Breeze, Brendan Davies, Timothy Devinney, Oliver Harlen, Joseph Holden, Anthea Hucklesby, Pamela Jones, Philip Mellor, Wellcome Trust (Nov 2016), £119,343
Katie Field, Rank Prize Funds (Nov 2016), £20,000