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John Innes Centre in Norwich awarded £78m to develop food science of the future

PUBLISHED: 15:51 11 April 2017 | UPDATED: 16:05 11 April 2017

The John Innes Centre at Colney. Picture: John Innes Centre

The John Innes Centre at Colney. Picture: John Innes Centre

John Innes Centre

The John Innes Centre in Norwich has been awarded nearly £78m, strengthening Norfolk's position at the forefront of plant and food science.

Purple tomatoes. Picture: John Innes CentrePurple tomatoes. Picture: John Innes Centre

The cash comes from a series of new strategic programme investments by the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Four new research programmes will be funded over the next five years, which the centre said would deliver “fundamental insights” into plant and microbial life, which would then be useful to tackle national and global challenges in agriculture, the environment, and human health and well-being.

The four projects are:

• A plant health programme to tackle crop losses caused by pests, pathogens and poor nutrition, thereby enhancing agricultural productivity and reducing over-reliance on artificial agricultural inputs;

John Innes Centre pea research.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYJohn Innes Centre pea research. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

• A molecules from nature programme to exploit plant and microbial chemical diversity in the search for better drugs, new antimicrobial therapies and foods with enhanced nutrition;

• A designing future wheat programme to address the challenge of providing an estimated 60% larger wheat harvest globally by 2050 – developing higher yielding and more resilient varieties of wheat with improved nutrition;

• A genes in the environment programme to deploy improved understanding of environmental impacts for improved crop productivity and enhanced resilience to a changing climate.

The four will build upon existing expertise at the John Innes Centre, ensuring its status as one of the world’s strongest plant science research centre is maintained, it said.

Wheat infected with yellow rust disease. Picture: John Innes CentreWheat infected with yellow rust disease. Picture: John Innes Centre

The potential impact of the new programmes could be significant and wide-ranging. For example, some scientists at JIC are discovering new molecules from plants and bacteria that could lead to improved medicines and ways to stem the tide of anti-microbial resistance.

Others are working towards a future in which crops are more resistant to heat, drought and disease, and therefore better equipped to face increased variability in climate extremes and new and re-emerging diseases.

Dale Sanders, director of the John Innes Centre, said: “These new strategic programmes represent a significant investment in the future of the John Innes Centre and its world-leading scientists. We believe that the ground-breaking scientific effort launched today will have a substantial impact on national and global challenges in the years to come.”

Prof Melanie Welham, BBSRC chief executive, said: “BBSRC’s strategic funding investments in research, people and vital national capabilities at world-leading bioscience institutes will deliver new knowledge and innovation and help realise the potential of a bio-based economy.

“The positive impacts in food, agriculture, energy, materials and health will help drive economic growth and deliver benefits to society across the UK and beyond.”

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