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Promoting APHA science in style

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In this blog, Prof. Ian Brown, Head of the Virology Department tells us about an event APHA scientists attended at the British Embassy in Paris to promote our international scientific capabilities to colleagues from around the world.

Two female and one male APHA Heads of Department posing for a photograph together in front of an APHA banner saying 'promoting animal, plant and bee health'
Yvonne Spencer, Ian Brown and Emma Snary, three APHA Heads of Departments.

I travel abroad a lot in my role as Director of the International Reference Laboratories for avian influenza, swine influenza and Newcastle disease to engage with a wide international stakeholder community to support in developing their scientific research, surveillance, diagnostic testing and outbreak preparedness, but nothing as stylish as the latest event I attended to promote Defra Group/APHA science at the British Embassy in Paris.

Prof. Tony Fooks, Head of the APHA International Development Programme working with Graeme Cooke, Defra’s Deputy CVO co-organised an evening reception for leading international veterinary officers already attending the World Association for Animal Health (OIE) General Assembly. The aim of the event was to enhance strategic, scientific partnerships between OIE member states and the UK’s Animal Health scientific agencies: APHA, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Sciences (Cefas) and the Pirbright Institute.

On Monday 27 May, while the UK was enjoying a long, bank holiday weekend I travelled to Paris to the British Ambassador’s residence for the event, to network with over 120 chief veterinary officers, directors of agriculture and animal health, and other leading international veterinary and scientific experts.

Guests arriving at the residence
Guests arriving at the residence

The British Ambassadors’ residence, considered to be one of the most impressive Foreign and Commonwealth residences in the world, has to be one of the most stylish venues I’ve been to. The prestigious building, situated near the Elysee Palace, is also close to many designer fashion shops, which thankfully the guests weren’t tempted by!

I was joined at the event by our colleagues, Kath Webster, Science Director; Chris Teale, our lead on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR); Emma Snary, Head of Epidemiological Sciences and Yvonne Spencer, Head of the Pathology Department. We assembled in the opulent dining room for a series of short presentations, with an opening address by Matthew Lodge, the British Embassy Minister, who welcomed the guests to the residence and highlighted the importance of international collaboration to facilitate trade and health protection. The Defra Biosecurity Minister, Lord Gardiner then acknowledged the attendees’ contribution to tackling global animal and human disease threats and the UK government’s strong desire to take forward new strategic collaborations to combat disease as well as antimicrobial resistance.

Four males and one female posing for a photograph
Speakers: Simon Doherty, BVA President; Matthew Lodge, British Ambassadors Minister; Lord Gardiner, Defra Minister; Christine Middlemiss, UK CVO and Matthew Stone, OIE Deputy Director General

After the Ministerial addresses the OIE Deputy Director General, Matthew Stone and BVA President, Simon Doherty both added their support for evidence-based science, animal health standards and working collaboratively on ‘One Health’. Christine Middlemiss, the UK Chief Veterinary Officer praised the expertise of the four government science agencies in attendance and introduced the lead representatives from APHA, VMD, Cefas and the Pirbright Institute. She outlined their specialisms and explained the importance of the essential scientific evidence they provide in developing animal health policies and managing outbreak situations.

After the presentations, the guests enjoyed a buffet of British food (including mini roast beef and Yorkshire puddings to celebrate Defra’s new trade agreements for beef exports) and drink in the grand dining room, garden and modern gallery whilst networking with the Defra Group scientific experts and other guests.

APHA female scientist speaking to a male and female guest
Yvonne Spencer Brown talking to guests

We were very pleased to have the opportunity to showcase APHA’s science capabilities and international outreach programme and explored ideas for new initiatives, whilst consolidating historic partnerships. The breadth of our programme and international accessibility was acknowledged and welcomed by delegates. In particular, they appreciated our long standing ‘One Health’ profile and our role as a ‘go-to’ provider for detection and mitigation of new and emerging disease threats.

See the event video on the Defra Twitter page here.

Special award

Professor Trevor Drew, my former APHA colleague, was awarded a meritorious gold award at the OIE General Assembly meeting and I was pleased that he could attend the reception to offer my congratulations and receive further acknowledgement from the Defra Minister, CVO and other guests. Trevor’s award honoured his long history of exceptional veterinary service and trusted consultancy in the field of animal health, particularly his specialist knowledge of viral diseases in contributing to control of several important transboundary diseases across the world. Trevor worked at APHA for 48 years before moving to work at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in October 2018.

Two gentlemen in suits looking into camera for a photo
Trevor Drew with Lord Gardiner

We will report on further developments of the International Development programme in future blogs.

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