THE University of Reading is asking the public to help name a cute baby llama.

The new addition to the university could help scientists develop the next generation of life-saving medicines.

An online ballot launched on the University of Reading's Twitter account is seeking to name the newest arrival to its herd of llamas, which provide antibodies crucial to an innovative new area of medical research.

Name options for the baby llama are Boris or Jeremy, a nod towards the two bidding to become the next Conservative leader and Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt.

Reading Chronicle:

READ MORE: University of Reading student overcomes disease to graduate

The result of the poll will be announced on Tuesday, July 23, and is part of a week-long campaign highlighting Reading's involvement in animal research.

Professor Gary Stephens, from the Reading School of Pharmacy, who is leading work to develop new ‘nano’ antibodies, said: "Nanobody technology is one of the most exciting new developments in medical research, and we're pleased that the University of Reading is bringing its combined expertise in pharmacy research and animal husbandry to keep llamas for this purpose.

"Llamas and other dromedaries, such as camels, have been found to produce ‘nano’ antibodies which are much smaller than those of humans.

"The scope for their use is enormous as they can work in the human body in a way that normal antibodies can't.

"Larger antibodies are often broken down by the human body's natural defences which makes their use for drug delivery ineffective.

"These new nanobodies mean that a whole new breed of medicines can be developed to tackle diseases such as cancer and cystic fibrosis, which previously have been difficult to treat with normal drugs."

Whether Boris or Jeremy, the baby llama, known as a cria, joins a herd of llamas that the university keeps to produce antibodies that are used by research institutions across the UK.

The cria’s older herdmates have already helped research into cystic fibrosis and heart disease.

READ MORE: Miami Burger closes its doors in Reading’s Oracle

This work sits alongside other research involving animals at the University of Reading aimed at tackling some of the biggest global health challenges, including dementia, epilepsy and cardiovascular disease.

This week, the University of Reading is highlighting a wide range of its animal research work, following the release last week of national and institutional figures showing how many animals were used in research in the UK in 2018.

As well as publishing details of all its current government-licensed animal research projects, the university has released comprehensive data on numbers and types of procedures it carries out on animals.

It is also explaining how these experiments support important scientific research.

The university is a signatory to a UK concordat on openness on animal research and is committed to the principles of working to replace, reduce and refine procedures on animals.

One way in which the university is investing in improving its facilities for research is the development of a new £60 million Health and Life Sciences building, due for completion at the end of 2019.

The building will provide a world-class environment for animal research, ensuring that both the research conducted and animal welfare are of the highest standards.

To find out more about animal research at the University of Reading, click here.