Visit to Centre for Applied Microbiology
and Research, Porton DownWednesday 11 December 2002
1. CAMR is a national resource for reference
diagnostic services and research into infectious diseases. The
Sub-Committee visited CAMR in order to observe the facilities
at first hand and to receive and discuss presentations about its
functions and future plans.
2. Members of the Sub-Committee present
were Baroness Emerton, Lord Haskel, Lord Rea, Lord Soulsby of
Swaffham Prior (Chairman) and Baroness Walmsley. Professor George
Griffin, Specialist Adviser to the Sub-Committee and Rebecca Neal
the Clerk of the Sub-Committee also attended.
3. The Sub-Committee met the following staff
Dr Jo Bacon, Dr Tim Brooks, Dr Roger
Gilmour, Mr Mike Dennis, Dr Graham Hall, Dr Peter Hambleton, Dr
Steve Leach, Dr Graham Lloyd, Dr Charles Penn, Dr Ann Rawkins,
Mr Howard Tolley, Mr Ben Walsh, Professor Richard Wise.
4. The day proceeded with a number of short
presentations with question and answer sessions and a tour of
some of the high-security laboratories and other facilities.
5. The Committee heard how CAMR had evolved
since its inception in 1940 as Ministry of Supply Biology Department
through to 1994, when CAMR was incorporated as a part of the Microbiology
Research Authority, a Special Health Authority.
6. At present, 50 per cent of CAMR's income
was from contracts with commercial organisations, 19 per cent
came from the Department of Health, 18 per cent was provided by
the Ministry of Defence and the rest was derived from other Government
departments and Research Councils or charity grants. CAMR had
research links with some of these organisations.
7. In 2003 CAMR would be incorporated into
the new Health Protection Agency.
8. Following the outbreak of H5N1 influenza
CAMR had prepared a potential vaccine against H5N1 influenza in
partnership with other institutions. During the foot and mouth
outbreak in 2002 CAMR had performed 20 per cent of the UK's diagnostic
tests. CAMR also had diagnosed a significant number of potential
anthrax samples in 2001-02.
9. CAMR had one of the UK's three 24-hour
diagnostic reference laboratories for special pathogens. This
facility involved containment Level 4 facilities for research
on and diagnosis of diseases such as viral haemorrhagic fevers
10. The Committee heard that West Nile Fever
was a zoonotic viral disease currently affecting humans in the
USA which could appear in the UK. In order to carry out effective
surveillance it was important to closely collaborate with veterinary
11. Mathematical modelling could help with
charting the possible spread of endemic infection organisms released
12. In 1995 CAMR had established a TB research
group which was conducting studies using chemostat, proteomic
and microarray technologies and were involved in vaccine research.
The group had embraced contemporary molecular techniques. Similar
research on vaccines for meningococcal disease was also taking
13. CAMR was keen to develop a new building
on its site at an initial cost of around £30 million which
would host work in both vaccine development and accelerated production
if the UK faced an outbreak of communicable disease. This building
would involve containment Level 4 capacity in order that handling
of agents such as Ebola could be achieved.
14. There were significant opportunities
provided by the creation of the Health Protection Agency (HPA).
This could clarify the relationships between the agencies involved
in communicable disease control. Front-line staff were essential
to an infectious disease service and the HPA must develop good
lines of communication with these personnel. It was hoped that
the HPA would allow for a more seamless and complete service and
should provide a clear focal point for collaboration with international