Top scientists who advise the government

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The members of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) start meeting today to decide on advice to parents on whether children should eat beef.

It comprises:

Professor John Pattison, chairman: professor of medical microbiology and Dean of University College, London Medical School. Appointed to the committee last February, and to the chairmanship late last year on the retirement of David Tyrrell, head of the now-defunct Common Cold Unit. With 30 years' experience in the field of clinical pathology, Pattison is widely respected in his field.

Dr Rob Will, vice-chairman: consultant neurologist and head of the National CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh. His team first noticed the unusual cases of the disease which led to last week's bombshell announcement.

Professor John Collinge, head of the Prion Diseases Group at St Mary's College Hospital, London. A clinical neurologist whose research group is active in research into BSE and other similar diseases, mainly using transgenic mice. Paper published in the scientific journal Nature in late December 1995 suggested that BSE could not cause CJD, based on preliminary results with genetically-engineered mice with human genes. The experiments are continuing.

Professor Ingrid Allen, professor of Neuropathology, Queen's University of Belfast. Has wide experience in diseases of the central nervous system, particularly multiple sclerosis.

Professor Fred Brown FRS, formerly deputy director (scientific) of the now-defunct Animal Virus Research Institute, and now visiting scientist to the US Department of Agriculture's Plum Island Animal Disease Centre in New York.

Dr William Hueston, veterinary epidemiologist, US Department of Agriculture.

Dr Richard Kimberlin, independent consultant on scrapie-related diseases. Has spent the past eight years on risk assessment of the dangers posed by BSE to humans.

David Pepper, private veterinary surgeon.

Dr William Watson, former director of the Central Veterinary Laboratory.

Professor Jeffrey Almond, a virologist and professor of microbiology at the University of Reading. His own laboratory has been engaged in BSE research for the past five years. Joined SEAC December 1995.

Ray Bradley, a veterinary pathologist and chairman of the BSE sub-group of the EC's scientific veterinary committee. Regarded as a world expert on the disease. Joined SEAC in December 1995.

Dr Mike Painter, a consultant in Communicable Disease Control, City of Manchester. Joined SEAC in December 1995.

Professor Peter Smith, an epidemiologist from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Joined SEAC in January 1996.