The Medical Research Council (MRC) in the UK has announced the launch of a major research project into the threat of bird flu.
The MRC has allocated an additional Â£10 million (around 14.7 million euro) in research funds, which will be used to investigate the threat of the H5N1 virus, particularly the potential for a flu pandemic.
Ten research grants, with a total value of Â£4 million (around 5.8 million euro), have so far been awarded in the UK. The grants are intended to enable scientists to look at the source, spread and potential cure for the virus.
Professor Deborah Smith, who chaired the awards panel, said: “We’ve funded research that was academically excellent and urgently needed. In the coming months, we will work with our partners to look again for gaps in research and consider how best to close them.
“Once they’ve been identified, we’ll invest in more research later this year and next in our effort to combat the threat from H5N1 on all fronts.”
The MRC has set aside an additional Â£3.5 million for flu research later in the year and a further Â£5 million will be invested in 2007/08.
The call for extra funding came following a mission of MRC experts who travelled to south-east Asia to discover more about the spread of the avian flu virus.
Colin Blakemore, chief executive of the MRC, said: “The investment has the potential to help find ways to reduce the effects of the virus in people and animals and possibly to develop ways to stop the spread of the virus.”