Visits by the Chief Scientific Advisor to Cefas and Fera

Public sector research establishments (PSRE) play an important role in the UKpanorama of science, research, development and innovation. Primarily, they support government by providing scientific advice to policy makers, acting as a strategic capacity in policy implementation and providing critical scientific services for government business and society. The Science Capability Review 2019 recognized this PSRE they represent an important public asset that is currently underutilized and poorly understood across government.

The government’s chief scientific advisor (GCSA) Sir Patrick Vallance visited 2 keys PSRE in July – Fera Science (Fera) and the Center for Environmental Sciences, Fisheries and Aquaculture (Cephas).

Center for Environmental Sciences, Fisheries and Aquaculture

The GCSA recently visited Cephas in Weymouth, together with the Food Standards Agency’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Robin May. Cephas provides world-class science for the marine and freshwater environment. During his visit, the GCSA i CSA gave a talk and participated in a Q&A with Cephas scientists about the importance of PSREscientific capacity in government and ensure that policy is evidenced by science.

The visit focused mainly on the work of the Science of Human and Animal Health Theme a Cephasand how Cephas is aligning its deep specializations in hazard identification and control around a broader concept of unique health surveillance. For example, Cephas is taking the lead in a new one Defra international program that aims to bring together methods to assess specific risks along the aquatic food supply chain and target controls at the points in that chain where they can have the most impact. This approach improves safe and sustainable food supply, and can also positively affect biodiversity and the climate efficiency of entire food systems.

During the visit to the laboratory the GCSA i CSA heard to speak CephasNational and international program of work, covering aquatic animal pathology, accredited diagnostics, whole gene profiling, bioinformatics, natural biotoxins, chemicals, foodborne pathogens and antimicrobial resistance (AMR). CephasThe work in his Weymouth lab includes analyzing risks AMR and assess the potential impacts of chemical substances in the aquatic environment, responsibility to provide official controls that help ensure that shellfish throughout the territory UK is safe to eat for consumers and controls outbreaks of fish and shellfish diseases in England and Wales. This helps to maintain high standards of biosecurity and animal welfare. All of these capabilities help inform policy and operational responses both domestically and internationally.

The visit also discussed recent domestic investments in cutting-edge technologies for chemical, microbial and genomic profiling, in relation to emerging opportunities for their application, including the development of surveillance based on waste water This vigilance allowed Defra group to help support the government’s response to COVID-19 by testing wastewater samples. This supported effective decision making NHS Test and trace to identify how the virus moved between communities, including new and emerging variants, before being picked up in clinical trial data.

The GCSA i CSA He also had a series of conversations with bacteriologists, toxicologists, seafood hygiene experts and others to understand how pathogens and toxins are identified and reduce the risk to humans, shellfish and molluscs. They were also told about the work of Cephas in other countries to support the ability to identify bacteria and perform toxicology on shellfish and molluscs. These activities help support a more sustainable and reliable food source and Ghana and Bangladesh are just 2 of the countries where work is being done.

The GCSA said:

It was great to discuss the importance of scientific capacity in government and to ensure that policy is informed by science, with the students and early career scientists I met at Cephas.

Do Science

Fera are experts in safety, biosecurity and sustainability in the entire agri-food and environmental chain. The GCSA recently visited the York site and were briefed on Fera’s activities R&D activities to support its scientific strategy and future growth plans.

Fera is a unique member of the UK PSRE Network, as it operates as a public-private sector collaboration under a joint business model established by Defra in 2015. This hybrid status has allowed Fera to continue to serve the needs of the public sector at a much lower cost, as it is freer (and incentivized) to provide expert scientific services to clients and industry partners on a fully commercial. This has allowed Fera to fully fund several of the new infrastructure assets and the expansion of expert services that were introduced in GCSAvisit of the Fera site.

Just one such example is Fera’s work on land use and natural capital assessments GCSA was introduced to the tour. Fera’s work in this area supports new environmental land management schemes that aim to achieve national net zero carbon targets and improve biodiversity and its measurement.

The Fera team also gave a presentation on Fera’s work to assess, improve and certify the competence of government and commercial laboratories internationally. This work, for example, allows the UK have confidence that the data produced by trading partner countries in support of their food and commodity exports is UK-equivalent standard.

This was followed by a short talk about Fera’s food safety work at the main on-site Thomson Laboratory location, which houses more than 30 million pounds of cutting-edge analytical instrumentation that operates 24 hours a day to provide the analytical results that support a wide range of Fera’s work; examples include legal testing of maximum pesticide residue levels in food, food contact safety assessment of packaging materials, to determining the origin and authenticity of food products which have a high risk of fraud and substitution.

The GCSA Research and testing has also been carried out for public sector bodies and commercial agrochemical and veterinary medicine companies to assess the safety of these chemicals in the natural environment and their environmental fate. This included a tour of Fera’s new state-of-the-art aquatic toxicology labs and the unique e-Flows Mesocosm which was built with the support of the Crop Health and Protection Agritech Center (CHAP) and Innovate. UK. It is a “world-first” large-scale outdoor field test laboratory with 66 precisely measured channels of running water that can accurately simulate the impact of chemical and biological interventions on the environment environment (such as pesticide application) on aquatic and invertebrate health. spices.

Other experts from the Fera team went on to speak GCSA through his work R&D for assays, molecular detection and genomic sequencing to assess whether plants have been genetically altered, and measurement and regulation challenges to detect the quality and safety of gene editing processes.

In another example of some of Fera’s “breakthrough” or pioneering work, the GCSA saw their insect research facilities. Fera’s insect research has recently expanded with a £1m investment by Fera for a new pilot-scale production facility to support research programs to evaluate and optimize application of insect bioconversion at scale. Insect bioconversion is the process of feeding insects with organic biomass waste to create additional materials such as protein (for livestock feed) or biofertilizers. The technology can reduce waste, provide alternative (sustainable) sources of protein for animal feed and reduces the environmental impact of obtaining protein from already depleted areas (such as fishmeal and soy).

Reflecting on the visit, the GCSA said:

PSRE like Fera are really important to help a UK increase its scientific and technological capacity. It was great to visit Fera and learn more about their leading work in agri-food and environmental science.

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