An Edinburgh-based scientist who – in the words of internet magnate Bill Gates – helped turn the city into 'a world capital for livestock health and genetics', has been presented with an honorary fellowship by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

Prof David Hume, former Director of The Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh, has been recognised for his support in bringing together SRUC’s animal scientists with the expertise at Roslin – the birthplace of Dolly the Sheep – to create a world-leading research hub.

Addressing an audience of graduates, parents, colleagues and guests gathered for the SRUC winter graduation ceremony at the University of Glasgow’s Bute Hall on Friday (November 3), College Principal Professor Wayne Powell paid tribute to Prof Hume: “David’s drive and energy, combined with similar attributes in key SRUC, Moredun and university staff, has allowed Edinburgh to become a world-leading hub for research in animal biosciences and associated agricultural systems.

“This is encapsulated in the Easter Bush Research Consortium (EBRC) and proved its worth in 2014 when the joint application by SRUC and the University of Edinburgh to the UK’s Research Excellence Framework exercise was ranked top in research power,” he added.

Previously director of the ARC's centre for functional and applied genomics at the Institute for Molecular BioScience, University of Queensland, proud Australian Prof Hume was mad director at the Roslin Institute in 2007. He will return to Australia to take up a new position in Brisbane in 2018, but retains an honorary professorship and many ongoing collaborations in Edinburgh.

Prof Hume is a global leader in his field of genome sciences, with a particular focus on the function of macrophages – specialised cells of the immune system involved in infection, inflammatory disease and cancer.

Wayne Powell added: “Prof Hume’s research studies the genomics of immune response in a range of species including chicken, sheep and pigs. These studies and those of others he directs complement the more applied work in animal breeding and genetics at SRUC. It is part of the science which underpins the procedures SRUC applies to its animal breeding programmes and associated services. Increasingly, tools like this are emerging in molecular biology that can be applied to the grand challenges facing agriculture worldwide.”

Outwith the UK, the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health, an SRUC collaboration with International Livestock Research Institute, in Nairobi, and The Roslin Institute owes much to Prof Hume who, with others such as Andy Peters, successfully negotiated £10m of funding from the Gates Foundation and a further £4m from the Department for International Development.

Prof Hume was also a leading figure in the creation of the UK Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock (CIEL), also involving SRUC and Roslin as major partners, which attracted around £20m of additional capital investment to the Easter Bush campus and in the creation of the new £30m Roslin Innovation Centre.

Prof Powell added: “As David steps down from his directorships, it is a good time for SRUC to recognise his contribution through this award. However, development continues apace with David continuing to play a key role. This award is, therefore, as much to support on-going collaboration with SRUC as it is to recognise past success.”

SRUC’s autumn graduation ceremony also saw a professorship of rural resource economics conferred in absentia on researcher Andrew Barnes, while Cesar Revoredo-Giha was conferred with a readership in food supply chain economics. Phil Watkin, based at the College’s Elmwood campus, in Fife, received the SRUC 'Award for Excellence in Teaching'.