Monday, August 06, 2007

Questions for DEFRA over Pirbright

I have been reading the report for the BBSCR Council, Review of the Institute for Animal Health, Pirbright Laboratory, published five years ago in July 2002 into the Pirbright Laboratory.
2.20 The Pirbright site is a mixture of modern buildings and areas that are clearly
pre-1940. There is a new (1999) main office block and shower facilities as a
gateway ‘inside’ to the category 4 containment area. Work is also underway
on a new high security containment facility for large animal exotic virus
infectious disease work to replace the “Isolation Unit 7”. This is absolutely
essential for both the scientific and statutory work.

Question for the government: was funding given to complete this work?
Recommendation 2: The condition of much of the Pirbright Laboratory,
site infrastructure and associated housing is unsatisfactory and there is a
clear need for investment over the next five years in new laboratories and
facilities. This should be part of a phased medium-term (10-year) rolling
plan for the Pirbright Estate to be developed by the new Director with
BBSRC and in consultation with DEFRA. We further recommend that
IAH, in concert with BBSRC, develop a realistic and achievable plan for
renovating its housing stock. We view these as urgent issues.

Question for the government: In the last five years, which site infrastructure and laboratory facilities have been upgraded or rebuilt?


nadds said...

Looking forward to the BBC coverage of this pretty critical point... not

anthonynorth said...

Another question for the government: Is ANY area of our infra-structure given the correct investment it needs?
I think not.

Anonymous said...

and if this can happen to a high security lab dealing with foot and mouth what assurances can they give us that it can't/won't happen with labs dealing with anthrax and smallpox?

AnyoneButBrown said...

You'll notice that the MSM coverage is focusing on the private company Merial.
I have no doubt that McBride and the other Brown spinners are pointing things in this direction.
I suggest that this is because of the pertinent questions that Iain and others are asking about government funding...or government cuts forced through by the treasury (former prop. G. Brown)

Colin D said...

I thought the yanks would have a finger in it somewhere!

James Higham said...


Unsworth said...

It's a touch worrying, isn't it? I'm so glad I don't live anywhere near Porton Down, for example. Must check out the large scale Ordnance Survey map for my patch, though. Some may wish to take a good look at 'Secret Bases' - Alan Turnbull's excellent work at: He's got some very interesting stuff there. That'll reassure - or not - as the case may be...

But anyway, the spin machine is being cranked up right now. My guess is that they'll be desperately looking for ways to finger the commercial partner in this. We've already seen the spokesman for the Merial getting attention from the press - no word yet on the Government laboratory's part, of course. So they'll hang Merial out to dry and then it'll be business as usual.

The expenditure for the recommended action at Pirbright was/is minute in comparison with some other wheezes such as IT projects and ID cards etc. So, who in Government is determining the priorities?

BOF2BS said...

Internationally Merial are not insignificant & will likely act accordingly.

"Worldwide, Merial employs approximately 5,000 people and operates in more than 150 countries. Its 2006 sales were nearly $2.2 billion. Merial Limited is a joint venture between Merck & Co. and sanofi-aventis". said...

Thanks to Chuck Unsworth for the mention.

The direct link to my DEFRA Pirbright material is actually:-


Alan Turnbull
Pagliacci Productions Limited

Alex said...

I think the simple answer is that none of it has been built yet, but £120m has been set aside and some preliminary work has been done.

I think other posters are right that there has been some government spinning to attach blame to Merial.

This morning there was a report on Radio4 that Merial use a less virulent form of the virus, and as the outbreak didn't look to bad, it must have been Merial's fault. Well not quite - Merial make their vaccines from the killed virus which is totally harmless, so the whole story looks like spin.

Another piece of incompetence - if the 3km exclusion zone was extended from Wanbrough to Pirbright (because it was thought that the virus had travelled that far), why wasn't the zone made the same distance in all directions around Pirbright? If it could travel 3 miles south, it could just as easily travel 3 miles in any direction when the wind changed.

Tapestry said...

Maybe Merial had a sales meeting and decided this was the best way to increase demand for their products.

They've had an order for 300,000 vaccinations according to BBC.

What would you do if the shareholders were breathing down your neck for increased performance?

The Remittance Man said...

So if Alex is correct, urgent work was identfied five years ago.

In the interval 120 million sovs has been "set aside" (whatever the F that might mean), but nothing concrete seems to have been done.

Still, one can't help wondering whether funds haven't been used to create "project offices", "project infrastructure" and pay for "fact finding trips". Anyone got any info?

Alex said...

The BBC aren’t exactly bigging up the fact that the fact that the new outbreak is 10 miles from Pirbright:

That means that the virues could just as easily be anywhere within 10 miles of Pirbright said...

I find it rather irritating that the BBC are still repeating the basic error they have made in the name of the original outbreak location - Woolford's Farm in Elstead.

They insist on referring to it in all reports as Wolford Farm - an error that has now been propagated around the world on all other news sites and blogs.

A quick look on an Ordnance Survey map gives the correct name. That's what I used!

If they can't get something so basic right ...

Alan Turnbull
Pagliacci Productions Limited

Alex said...

It gets worse. Now the government say that its all because of the floods. Some virus was poured down the drain, as one does and if it wasn't fr the pesky flooding it wouldn't have flooded onto the fields!

So how much virus gets poured down the sink at these places, and is this their normal practice?

Unsworth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unsworth said...


It's probably asking far too much of the BBC to get such basic items right. In recent reports on the fighting in Afghanistan they repeatedly referred to the Royal Anglian Regiment as the 'Royal Anglican Regiment'. I visualised a gang of tooled up bishops when I first heard it said...

Frankly I'm surprised they've even got the county right. Maybe they're confusing it with Walford as in 'Stenders'. Morons.