The IEC was established in 1983 by Sean M. Collins and other senior figures in the Irish horse industry as a response to an earlier outbreak of Contagious Equine Metritis (CEM). This outbreak was used by other nations to impose restrictions on the movement of Irish horses, which significantly damaged the economic fortunes of the industry, and created a realisation that the industry needed equine-specific laboratory services which were hitherto unavailable. The IEC has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to respond to crisis situations created by disease outbreaks. In the past the IEC has been able to augment its resources rapidly to deal with increased sample volumes and generate laboratory results in a short turnaround time. The IEC’s work is often referred to in terms of providing an ‘insurance policy’ for the valuable Irish horse industry.


The majority of the IEC’s costs are funded by the fees that it charges for its day-to-day diagnostic services. In addition, the IEC receives annual grants from Horse Racing Ireland and the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association via the Foal Levy; contributions from Weatherbys Ireland; and contract research, teaching and research grants. These third-party contributions account for approximately one third of the IEC’s annual cost base. The IEC also undertakes work across a varied range of areas, including diagnostic work in cattle, sheep and pigs and safety testing in food and animal products. Not only does this additional work help subsidise the costs of maintaining the IEC’s services to the Irish Horse industry, it also ensures that our complex laboratory machinery is operational throughout the year, including times when the equine diagnostic activity may be reduced, such as after the breeding season. It also provides opportunities for our scientists to learn different testing techniques that could be transferred to equine applications. The Irish Equine Foundation Ltd - trading as the Irish Equine Centre - is a registered charity. The Trust also seeks to raise money through fundraising events such as the annual Irish Equine Centre Golf Classic, private donations and legacies. The funds raised by the Trust have proved fundamental to sustaining the ongoing and vital work of the IEC over the last number of years.


John Malone (Chairman)
Martin Blake
Stephen Collins
Dermot Cantillon
Joe Kiernan
Malachy Ryan
Roger Casey
John Osborne
The Board of Governors of the Irish Equine Centre is made of up eight people who are appointed as representatives of the industry bodies that directly fund the IEC, namely Horse Racing Ireland, the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association and the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine. The Board members, who receive no remuneration for their involvement, meet regularly to discuss and agree strategic, financial and operational matters in relation to the IEC. Each Governor brings a wealth of experience and knowledge of the issues facing the IEC and understands how vital the IEC is to serving the best interests of the Irish equine industry.

OIE Reference Laboratory

In 2009 the Irish Equine Centre was designated an OIE reference laboratory for equine influenza and the Head of the Centre’s Virology Unit, Professor Ann Cullinane was designated an OIE expert in this field. The OIE is the veterinary equivalent of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The IEC is the only OIE Reference Laboratory in Ireland and one of just two for equine influenza in the world (the other is in Kentucky, USA). Since 2009 the Irish Equine Centre has provided assistance relating to the diagnosis and control of equine influenza to laboratories and veterinarians in Europe, South Africa, the Middle East, North and South America and Asia. Dr Marie Garvey in the Virology Unit organises inter-laboratory comparisons and proficiency tests and the supply of reference standards to other laboratories. Ann Cullinane is Chair of the OIE Expert Surveillance Panel (ESP) for equine influenza. This panel which consists of OIE and World Health Organisation (WHO) experts meets annually at OIE headquarters in Paris to review data in relation to equine influenza outbreaks all over the world and to make recommendations on the need to update equine influenza vaccines. These recommendations are published in the OIE Bulletin and on the OIE website: OIE Website It is essential for the global control of equine influenza that the ESP receives information relating to disease outbreaks and the emergence of antigenic and genetic variants from as wide a geographic area as possible. In 2015 the expertise of our Virology Unit was further recognised when the laboratory was also designated an OIE Reference Laboratory for equine rhinopneumonitis (equine herpesvirus or EHV-1). Similar to equine influenza, the IEC is one of two laboratories in the world with this status for EHV-1. EHV-1 is the most pathogenic virus endemic in the Irish horse population and is a major cause of both sporadic and multiple abortions, paralysis and respiratory disease that often results in severe financial loss to the equine industry.

Education and Teaching

The IEC has always maintained a substantial commitment to providing continuing education for present and future veterinary surgeons and scientists. Lectures are regularly provided for those involved in the horse industry. Should your organization wish to invite a member of the professional staff to give a talk in their area of specialization or to participate in a discussion group please see “Our Team” for contact details. The IEC also supports young people in achieving their academic goals. The IEC team has contributed to the Equine Science degree course at the University of Limerick (UL) since its inception and Ann Cullinane is Adjunct Professor in the Department of Life Sciences. From time to time, Equine Science students have the opportunity to apply for placements in the Centre to perform their final year projects. MSc and Ph.D. students registered at UL may perform their research projects at the IEC. All Heads of Units are Associates of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin, and a series of virology and microbiology lectures are delivered to the veterinary students as an integral component of their course. Similarly, lectures and project supervision are provided to the Equine Science students at UCD. Veterinary and equine science students may apply for placements at the IEC. The IEC welcomes scientists from all over the world for technical training and the provision of scientific assistance is one of the core functions of the Centre’s OIE reference laboratories for equine influenza and equine herpesvirus.