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Minister Jo Johnson opens important plant science research hub in Norwich on day of major government industry announcement

PUBLISHED: 12:42 23 January 2017 | UPDATED: 15:45 23 January 2017

Universities, science, research and innovation minister Jo Johnson (left)  taking part in an agro infiltration experiment at the new Leaf Systems building on the Norwich Research Park in January 2017. He is joined by Dr Hadrian Peyret. Picture: SOPHIE WYLLIE

Universities, science, research and innovation minister Jo Johnson (left) taking part in an agro infiltration experiment at the new Leaf Systems building on the Norwich Research Park in January 2017. He is joined by Dr Hadrian Peyret. Picture: SOPHIE WYLLIE

SOPHIE WYLLIE

A new £5m plant science development hub which will promote important vaccine discoveries and attract pharmaceutical giants to Norwich opens for business today.

The purpose-built Leaf Systems building on the Norwich Research Park in Colney was visited by universities, science, research and innovation minister Jo Johnson.

It coincided with prime minister Theresa May’s announcement of her modern industrial strategy, which will invest in business including science and innovation.

One of the top priorities will involve industry leaders carrying out work on early sector deals in life sciences.

Mr Johnson said: “We are a science powerhouse in the UK but science develops and we [the government] would like to continue to invest money which enables business to commercialise on these breakthroughs in science.”

MORE: Government to ‘step up’ business role under new strategy

He said the science and innovation sector would receive £4.7bn from now until 2021.

The minister added Norwich was an important cluster for bio-science.

Scientists at Leaf Systems will be inspired by academic research into plants and their properties and use the “adaptive” space to grow and develop multiple vaccines and drug proteins cultivated in plants.

These substances can then be sold to big pharmaceutical firms.

Prof George Lomonossoff, of the John Innes Centre, said: “The industrial strategy is extremely important. It has always been known that in the UK we do great science but we are not very good at translating that into commercial developments and products.

“To have a centre to encourage that is great. Leaf Systems has been designed to bridge the gap.”

He added there was a hope enough material would be produced at the new £5m centre to attract more technology or innovation firms, sponsors and pharmaceutical companies to Norwich Research Park.

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