Research Park’s world-leading teams continue to tackle the big issues

The Biorepository team standing apart wearing face masks

The NRP Biorepository team, based at the Bob Champion building, has been helping in the fight against Covid-19 - Credit: Norwich Research Park

It’s been a busy year for the teams at Norwich Research Park, as they continue to help tackle Covid-19 alongside many other world-leading projects. Here are just a few of the latest exciting developments.

Helping to tackle the Covid-19 virus
A team at Norwich Research Park, who normally look after the safe storage of human tissue such as blood, saliva, stools and tissue in state-of-the-art freezers for analysis by researchers at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), University of East Anglia (UEA) and Quadram Institute, has played a key role recently in discovering the source of Covid-19 outbreaks.
The NRP Biorepository team, based at the Bob Champion building, has turned its attention to processing data, enabling researchers to identify the virus’ genetic code and therefore which strains caused the infection and where they originated.
In March, the Quadram Institute was selected to be part of the UK-wide genome sequencing consortium and the Biorepository team has been supporting the work being done by Quadram researchers that has been fed into the weekly SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) reports.
Working in collaboration, they were able to sequence over 1,500 Covid-19 genomes – only Australia, Spain, India and the US sequenced more!
Dr Rachael Stanley, who manages the Biorepository for NNUH, said: “Tracing the source of infection is vital for containment. In a hospital or care home you need to know whether patients or residents are infecting each other or if the virus was brought in from outside. 
“Just like humans, viruses have genes and, because they mutate, taking samples during an outbreak shows where people caught it. This is vital information that informs Public Health England and helps to determine Government decision-making.”

A picture of TV presenter Lucy Eckersley holding an animal's skull

TV presenter Lucy Eckersley will take part in the Women of the Future conference in partnership with the John Innes Centre - Credit: Norwich Research Park

Inspiring a new generation of female scientists
The John Innes Centre is continuing to run its Women of the Future conference and, unsurprisingly, it’ll be an online event this year but one that’s got an action-packed agenda.
First launched in 2015, Women of the Future is a celebration of women working in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM). The event’s aim is to inspire girls in Year 10 to take an interest in science and consider it as a future career. 
This year’s programme features short films made by women working and studying across the STEMM sector and a live panel session today where students can pose questions to some of the featured women and learn more about their lives and work. 
In addition to films from researchers on Norwich Research Park, there will be two keynote films from renowned  evolutionary biologist Professor Ashleigh Griffin from Oxford University and ‘punk’ animal biologists and TV presenter Lucy Eckersley.
Event organiser, James Piercy, said: “The lack of women in STEMM continues to be a real cause for concern for employers. At the John Innes Centre and across Norwich Research Park, we are committed to promoting equality and diversity for all staff and customers and that extends to inspiring the next generation of female STEMM professionals. 
“Our Park offers opportunities that are unmatched in the UK for women to develop roles in science and research that are diverse and rewarding.” 

Norwich Research Park researchers named amongst best in world
Ten science researchers, based at Norwich Research Park, have been named in the annual Highly Cited Researchers list for 2020. The Clarivate Web of Science Group list recognises the most influential researchers in the world. 
The 10 scientists at Norwich Research Park named on the Highly Cited Researchers 2020 list are: 

  • The Sainsbury Laboratory – Professor Sophien Kamoun, Professor Cyril Zipfel and Professor Jonathan Jones
  • John Innes Centre – Professor Tony Miller, Professor Cristobal Uauy 
  • University of East Anglia (UEA) – Professor Phil Jones, Professor Carlos Peres, Royal Society Research Professor Corinne Le Quéré and Professor David Livermore 
  • Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at UEA – Professor Robert Nicholls

David Parfrey, chief executive at Norwich Research Park, said: “Once again Norwich Research Park has been recognised globally for the excellence of its science-based research. 
“It demonstrates the research strength and outstanding achievements of the work undertaken here. 
“Our researchers innovate and develop knowledge that makes our world and its people healthier and more secure – helping to change lives and rethink society.”

A head and shoulders picture of Professor Sue Fairweather-Tait

Professor Sue Fairweather-Tait, a human nutrition expert at the UEA's Norwich Medical School, has been appointed to the position of Chair of Public Health England's new national Nutrition and Health Claims Committee - Credit: Norwich Research Park

National appointment for UEA professor
Professor Sue Fairweather-Tait, a human nutrition expert at the UEA’s Norwich Medical School, has been appointed to the position of chair of Public Health England’s new national Nutrition and Health Claims Committee, helping to protect the public from misleading food marketing.
The committee will be responsible for providing the UK government with evidence-based scientific opinions on any new nutrition and health claims.
Professor Fairweather-Tait said: “Food is essential for life and choosing the right diet is important for preventing chronic diseases. 
“The committee’s role is to protect consumers by ensuring the accuracy of nutrition and health claims and facilitating the development of food products which will help improve the health of the nation.”