Replacing animal models of bovine tuberculosis

This call is closed.


The current UK bovine tuberculosis (bTB) epidemic is one of the biggest challenges facing cattle farming in the UK with very serious economic and animal welfare consequences. The disease has spread from isolated pockets in the 1980s to cover large areas of the west and southwest of Britain, illustrating its increasing incidence.

One of the key challenges identified by the bTB research community is the lack of effective models to study TB infection, pathogenesis and virulence. The current bTB animal models have limitations and there is a need for alternative, biologically relevant systems. We invite applications that aim to develop novel systems that can be used to study TB infection, pathogenesis, virulence and host-pathogen interactions, for example:

  • In vitro models
  • Ex-vivo models
  • Tissue engineered systems
  • Lab-on-a-chip / microfluidic models
  • In silico, mathematical and systems biology approaches
  • Other appropriate innovative models

We encourage proposals that promote a One Health approach by utilising advances in human TB research to provide insights into bTB and vice versa.

This call is part of BBSRC’s Integrated Programme of Research on Bovine TB and will contribute to the UK multi-partner programme in Global Food Security ( 

 Who can apply | How to apply | Assessment procedure | Assessment panel | Resources and Awards | About the integrated programme 

Who can apply

Establishment eligibility

Individual eligibility

Any UK research establishment including:

  • Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)
  • Independent Research Organisations (IROs)
  • Research Council (RC) Institutes
  • Hospital/NHS Trusts
  • Charity Laboratories
  • Industry

Applicants should be UK-based researchers who can demonstrate that they:

  • Will direct the proposed research
  • Will be actively engaged in accomplishing the project’s aims
  • Hold a graduate degree – the minimum formal qualification required. However, it would normally be expected that an applicant has been awarded a PhD. Applications involving less experienced researchers should be made in collaboration with a more senior colleague.

In addition to the eligibility requirements above applications must include a clear explanation of the applicability of the model to in vivo TB research and its benefits compared to current models, a clear scientific rationale for the proposed work and a description of how it will impact on the 3Rs. 

Overseas researchers

Overseas researchers cannot be principal applicants but can be included as collaborators. Overseas co-applicant status can be obtained in exceptional circumstances and at the discretion of the NC3Rs; approval should be sought before applying.


The NC3Rs does not allow resubmission of previously unsuccessful proposals, unless explicitly invited by the Panel. Proposals previously declined by the NC3Rs will not be considered by another Research Council or funder within 12 months (from the date of submission to the original Research Council) unless substantially revised. More information can be found in the NC3Rs Applicant and Grant Holder Handbook.

Please note: The same or similar application cannot be considered by any other Research Council, the Health Departments or any other research funder at the same time.

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How to apply

This call is now closed. For information on future Strategic Award calls please sign up to the NC3Rs Newsletter for updates. 

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Assessment procedure

Applications are evaluated by international peer reviewers and assessed by the NC3Rs Strategic Award Panel.

The following criteria will be taken into consideration when making funding decisions:

  • Relevance to the strategic call
  • Potential impact on the 3Rs
  • Quality of the science
  • Current or future importance of the techniques to medical, biological or veterinary research
  • Strategy for promoting the proposed research to the scientific community
  • Expertise and track record of the team
  • Relevance to the NC3Rs strategy
  • Value for money

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Assessment panel

The following panel considered applications submitted to this competition. 

Member name Institution
Professor Lucy Walker (Chair) University College London
Professor Wendy Barclay Imperial College London
Professor Philip Butcher St George's, University of London
Dr Robin Skuce The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI)
Professor Mark Stevens University of Edinburgh
Professor James Stewart University of Liverpool
Dr Geraldine Taylor The Pirbright Institute

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Resources and Awards

With the support of BBSRC, a total budget of up to £2.1 million was available for projects of up to 36 months in duration.

Three awards were made in April 2015.

Professor Mark Chambers (University of Surrey)

A bovine alveolus model to replace cattle in the study of host-pathogen interactions in bovine tuberculosis

Professor Helen McShane (University of Oxford) Developing and validating an in-vitro mycobacterial challenge model to facilitate TB vaccine research and minimise in-vivo challenge experiments
Professor Graham Stewart (University of Surrey) DictyMyc: Using Dictyostelium to study the genetic basis of Mycobacterium bovis intracellular infection

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About the integrated programme

BBSRC’s Integrated Programme of Research on bTB aims to fund basic bioscience research that will provide the foundation for the development of effective bTB control and eradication strategies. This aim will be achieved by encouraging collaboration between animal and human TB communities and supporting:

  1. Fundamental basic bioscience research which addresses key gaps in the knowledge of bTB biology and informs Defra’s policies.
  2. The development of novel cost effective non-animal models of bTB which will help speed discoveries.

This call for research models is complemented by the BBSRC call, in collaboration with Defra, to support basic fundamental bioscience that will address key gaps in the knowledge of bTB biology. 

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