Benchmark Animal Health and international salmon farmer Cermaq Group AS are to receive funding for a collaborative research project to develop a new vaccine against salmon diseases caused by Tenacibaculum bacteria.

The grant of NOK 4.2 million (around £350,000) comes from the Research Council of Norway.

The partnership couples the biotechnology and fish health innovation expertise of Benchmark with Cermaq’s extensive research on Tenacibaculum bacteria, as well as experience as a leader in aquaculture and farming.

From Cermaq’s side, the project will be headed by PhD Sverre Småge and the researchers Cecilie Isachsen Lie and Helene Velle Mayer. At Benchmark, Sarah Barker and Sindre Rosenlund will lead the project alongside the researchers Claire Stanley, Fiona Tulloch and Matthias Winkle.

Diseases resulting from Tenacibaculum bacteria – mouthrot and tenacibaculosis – represent a major concern to the aquaculture industry in terms of both fish health and welfare issues, as well as significant economic losses due to increased mortality, reduced quality at harvest, and the need for antibiotic treatments.

In Norway, the Norwegian Veterinary Institute reported in 2020 that tenacibaculosis was considered the fifth most important cause of mortality in on-growing salmon, sharing third place with typical winter ulcer disease in terms of reduced salmon welfare.

Sarah Barker, Senior Research Scientist at Benchmark Animal Health, said: “The research team at Benchmark Animal Health are delighted to receive this recognition from the Research Council of Norway. We are looking forward to working on this important project in collaboration with our partner Cermaq Group AS, supporting our mission to achieve the highest standards of fish welfare and support the sustainable growth of the aquaculture industry.”

The Research Council of Norway is a Norwegian government agency that funds research and innovation projects. The Benchmark and Cermaq vaccine research is one of 11 projects within aquaculture, fisheries and green shipping to receive funding in 2021, totalling NOK 68 million (£5.65m) over three years.

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