The Pirbright Institute — Trustee Directors

The Institute now seeks two new Trustee Directors. One will be a high-achieving biological scientist, ideally in the fields of virology or immunology, and who will be a leader in their discipline, bring senior strategic-level experience, and a commitment to act as an ambassador for the Institute. The other Trustee Director will be a generalist leader within in a science-based organisation, who will have generalist leadership experience in an organisation which deals with science across the commercial, public or non-profit spaces. (Deadline 11 August)

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The Pirbright Institute is a world-leading centre of excellence in the research and surveillance of virus diseases of farm animals and those that spread from animals to humans, as well as working to understand, predict, detect and respond to viral disease outbreaks. First established as a cattle testing station for tuberculosis in 1914, the Pirbright Institute has developed over the past century to become one of the UK's leading virus diagnostics and surveillance centres, and is now also at the forefront of virus research.

The Institute employs around 350 staff, research students and visiting scientists, and is based on one campus in Pirbright, Surrey, where £150m from UK government through BBSRC-UKRI has resulted the recent development of the site to incorporate a state-of-the-art high containment (SAPO 4) laboratory – the BBSRC National Virology Centre: The Plowright Building. This has enabled a unique combination of fundamental and applied research into pathogenic diseases with potentially devastating impact. Additional investment of over £100m in the high containment animal facilities is nearing completion (Brooksby Building), which will enable the UK to study zoonotic diseases in livestock, a sovereign capability that was not available in the UK during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

With new facilities and ground breaking research, it's an exciting time for the Institute as it continues to deliver excellent science, underpinned by effective management of biorisk, ensuring that Pirbright remains financially viable whilst remaining agile. The Institute will be looking to maintain its financial sustainability particularly through attracting its minimum level of external grant income, delivering its next five-year funding cycle and it will continue to deliver its strategic objectives within the context of the BBSRC's strategic requirements.

Role specification

The Trustee Board is responsible for setting strategy, monitoring performance, and seeking assurance from the Senior Leadership Board which, in turn, is responsible for the management of the Institute. All members of the Trustee Board are expected to contribute to all aspects of the Trustee Board’s responsibilities.

The duties of a Trustee Director are to:

  • Ensure that the Institute complies with its governing document, charity law, company law and any other relevant legislation or regulations
  • Ensure that the Institute pursues its objects
  • Ensure that the Institute applies its resources exclusively in pursuance of its objects
  • Contribute actively to the Trustee Board by giving strategic direction to the Institute, setting overall policy, defining goals, setting targets, and evaluating performance against agreed targets
  • Safeguard the good name, reputation, and values of the Institute
  • Ensure the financial stability of the Institute

Person specification

Biological scientist. The Institute seeks a general Trustee Director who is a high-achieving biological scientist, ideally in the fields of virology or immunology. They will use their specific skills, knowledge or experience to help the Trustee Board reach sound decisions. This may involve leading discussions, identifying key issues, providing advice and guidance on new initiatives, and evaluating or offering advice on other areas in which they have particular expertise. They will have the communication skills and ability to advocate persuasively on behalf of the Institute, and be collaborative, decisive and diplomatic in approach.

Candidates will be a leader in their field and bring a strong background in academic virology or immunology whilst having strategic-level experience. This person will have a strong track record of winning grants through external agencies (preferably international funding and UKRI funding) and commensurate publication record. Having up-to-date knowledge of current trends on relevant technologies being applied by the Institute (such as CRISPR technology) would be advantageous.

In additional to being a highly respected Bio-Scientist, applicants will bring some leadership experience in addition to their academic activities and have an understanding of project management and people and culture. The will have management experience including managing staff and overseeing budgets for example. Board experience would be an advantage but is not essential as the successful candidate will be provided with a comprehensive learning and development programme in addition to the standard induction.

Generalist leader in a science organisation. The Institute now seeks a Trustee Director who brings generalist leadership experience from an organisation which is science-based. This may include but is not limited to pharmaceuticals, biological sciences or health. 

Candidates will bring strategic experience across any leadership role within their given science-based organisation and will offer strong commercial acumen, advanced communication skills and ability to advocate persuasively on behalf of the Institute, and be collaborative, decisive and diplomatic in approach. Experience in the application of science in commercial, government policy and / or international disease control settings is particularly interesting. Board experience would be an advantage but is not essential as the successful candidate will be provided with a comprehensive learning and development programme in addition to the standard induction.

For both roles, it is essential that the successful candidate will bring a commitment to act as an ambassador for the Institute, and be in alignment with Pirbright's mission to be the world's leading innovative centre for preventing and controlling viral diseases of livestock.


The Pirbright Institute welcomes applications regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, faith or disability. Given the current balance on the Board, applications from ethnic minority groups and other protected characteristic groups would be particularly welcomed. All appointments will be made on merit, following a fair and transparent process. In line with the Equality Act 2010, however, the organisation may employ positive action where diverse candidates can demonstrate their ability to perform the role equally well.

Terms of appointment

Trustee Directors are unpaid positions but can claim out of pocket expenses incurred in travelling to meetings. Trustee Board meetings are held four times per year during normal office hours, typically lasting between three and four hours. Trustee Directors will be asked to join one Trustee Board Committee, which meets a maximum of four times per year, for approximately two to fours hours, during normal office hours. Committee meetings are held in a hybrid manner and though Board meetings are held in person, there is some occasional flexibility to attend Board meetings virtually. There will also be one away day including a dinner and overnight stay the day before. Trustee Directors are expected, prior to Trustee Board or Trustee Board Committee meetings, to study the agenda and papers in good time prior to the meeting.  

Location: The Board meetings will be held in person in Woking, Surrey. As the Pirbright Institute is looking to attract the best leaders in their field, they would be open to considering someone outside of the UK (in Europe, for example) who could still attend meetings in person.

The deadline for consideration is 11 August.

If you would like to register your interest, please fill in the form below. A member of the Nurole team will be in touch ahead of the deadline to let you know whether it would be worth submitting a full application and to discuss the process further.