Pirbright is the location of The Pirbright Laboratory of the Institute of Animal Health, and is currently the number one suspect as the source of the foot and mouth disease virus in the outbreak at a small farm in Wanborough, Surrey. The IAH is a quango sponsored by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council with clients including Defra, the Department of Health and the Department of International Development. Biohazardous research and training is routinely performed at Pirbright.
The laboratory is also a world reference centre for the Office International des Épizooties and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) for the diagnosis of diseases in an emergency so all known strains of FMD are held at Pirbright for reference.
Jonathan Miller asks some pertinent questions:
A more inconvenient truth about Pirbright is that it is the wrong laboratory in the wrong place. The American equivalent FMD lab is on an island and answers to the Department of Homeland Security. Putting an virology lab next to the A323 might seem a counter-intuitive arrangement.
We need to know much more about Pirbright and the Institute for Animal Health, the quango that operates it and its current relationship with Defra. The annual report is here. The IAH claims to be “advancing, safeguarding and improving” animal health whereas in fact it has recently accomplished something else entirely. The commercial relationships of the IAH are also pretty opaque. To what extent had the IAH turned Pirbright into a vaccine factory, operated by a French pharmaceutical company? These are things we need to know.