Bloodstock desk: Equine Fertility Units future under threat following cuts.THE Equine Fertility Unit in Newmarket is one of the most vulnerable bodies to face a hatchet hatchet: see tomahawk. job as a result of the BHB's reduced budget, writes Rachel Pagones. Nonetheless, EFU EFU Exclusive Farm Use (zoning) director Twink Allen said he was far more optimistic than beforehand about the EFU's future after yesterday's Thoroughbred Breeders' Association annual meeting in London.
``Hearing the support from the floor, the good things people were saying about the Unit and their commitment to keeping it alive, I'm much more upbeat,'' said Allen.
Among those arguing passionately for the EFU's survival were TBA veterinary adviser Charles Frank and breeder Bob McCreery, an EFU governor.
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BHB Block History Buffer slashed its budget for 2005 by pounds 8.7 million after the European Court of Justice ruled against it in November in a case involving payments for data by bookmakers. The case is still under appeal, but the BHB has had to calculate its 2005 budget without the income previously expected.
Although it has a relatively tiny annual operating cost of pounds 500,000, the EFU has little means of funding itself, and since 1993 the TBA has been providing about one-third of its costs. Another third is earned through somewhat controversial commercial projects involving artificial insemination and embryo transplant, which often involve non-thoroughbreds.
The final third of the EFU budget is raised through research grants and donations.
The BHB was set to take over the TBA's contribution to the project at the beginning of the year, but when the budget cuts were announced late last year, that funding was said to be put ``under review'', as was funding for the Equine Genome Project, which is carried out at the Animal HealthT rust and the Royal Veterinary College History
The Royal Veterinary College was founded in 1791 by a group of men led by Granville Penn, a grandson of William Penn. The promoters wished to select a site close to the metropolis, but far enough away to minimise the temptations open to the students. . The BHB has funded the Genome Project from its outset.
In his keynote speech at yesterday's meeting, BHB chairman Martin Broughton described the budget cuts as ``a prudent approach to the BHB's financial situation''.
With regard to the EFU and the Genome P roject, he said: ``It was planned that each be funded to the tune of some pounds 250,000pounds 300,000 per annum. We recognise that pressure dictates that we review our plans in these areas. Our approach has been to initiate discussions with each party with the objective of maintaining the current infrastructure.''
On Monday the BHB approved an allocation of pounds 100,000 to the Genome Project, expected to keep it going through the first half of the year. The TBA has agreed to contribute pounds 150,000 to the EFU this year. However, future funding remains up in the air.
Asked to explain what contribution to thoroughbred racing his group can make, Allen cited stem cell research and gene mapping as the crucial areas for research. ``Stem cells are the most exciting biological advance of the last 50 years,'' he said.
The EFU has isolated three lines of embyronic cells, which can be used to stimulate cell growth in any horse, as opposed to adult stem cells, which can be taken from a particular horse's sternum sternum: see rib. to generate growth in its tendon, for instance. ``Embyronic stem cells are a whole quantum leap above adult stem cells,'' said Allen.
But he said the painstakingly cultivated lines are languishing lan·guish
intr.v. lan·guished, lan·guish·ing, lan·guish·es
1. To be or become weak or feeble; lose strength or vigor.
2. in a freezer while the budget crisis unfolds.
``We are the only group in Europe to have that expertise and these stem cell lines,'' he said. ``But we cannot afford to lose the lead.''
Twink Allen Optimistic