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New investment builds on John Innes Centre invention

Copyright: LSI Architects
News from: The John Innes Centre

A landmark technique in plant science is being given a £5M backing in the form of a new business and a purpose-built facility a stone’s throw from the Norwich laboratory where it was developed.

Professor George Lomonossoff and Dr Frank Sainsbury, at the John Innes Centre (JIC), discovered a new way to use individual plants to produce new high value products, including therapeutic drugs and vaccines.

The technology is already being used in Canada and the US, where licensee Medicago Inc is using plants for the rapid production of vaccines against influenza for clinical trials.


Now the John Innes Centre has partnered with its main strategic partners BBSRC, Plant Bioscience Ltd and Norwich Research Partners LLP to bring the use of the technology closer to home.

Copyright: JIC
George Lomonossoff. Copyright: JIC

A new company – Leaf Systems® – has been established and planning permission is being sought from South Norfolk Council to build a new facility on the Norwich Research Park. The new building, constructed by Norwich Research Partners LLP, would comprise state of the art plant-growing areas and development laboratories, while the presence of the new company on the Norwich Research Park is already attracting interest from biotechnology companies which could use its services.

For Professor Lomonossoff, the development represents an important milestone in his research career: “To see the results of an invention from my lab being translated into a facility to produce medically important materials is a dream come true for me.”

The Hypertrans technology can be used to produce desired proteins in plants. The proteins can then be extracted through crushing the leaf and purifying the product.

Professor Lomonossoff won “Most Promising Innovator” and the overall “Innovator of the Year” prize at the 2012 BBSRC Innovator of the Year Awards, for his work with Dr Frank Sainsbury – then a PhD student in Professor Lomonossoff’s lab – on the development of this system for the rapid production of vaccines and pharmaceutical proteins in plants.

Hypertrans® differs from current methods of producing similar materials for development, which rely on yeast cultures, bacteria and animal tissue. Professor Lomonossoff’s technology is faster than existing commercial processes. The new facility in Norwich would provide services to companies and research organisations by producing quantities of proteins and other natural products for research and development purposes.

The planning application submitted to South Norfolk Council by Norwich Research Partners LLP is part of the overall Norwich Research Park Development.


Notes to editors

George Lomonossoff is available for interview. For more information or to arrange interviews contact Nicola Brown (see external contact below).

About the John Innes Centre

Our mission is to generate knowledge of plants and microbes through innovative research, to train scientists for the future, to apply our knowledge of nature’s diversity to benefit agriculture, the environment, human health and wellbeing, and engage with policy makers and the public.

To achieve these goals we establish pioneering long-term research objectives in plant and microbial science, with a focus on genetics. These objectives include promoting the translation of research through partnerships to develop improved crops and to make new products from microbes and plants for human health and other applications. We also create new approaches, technologies and resources that enable research advances and help industry to make new products. The knowledge, resources and trained researchers we generate help global societies address important challenges including providing sufficient and affordable food, making new products for human health and industrial applications, and developing sustainable bio-based manufacturing.

This provides a fertile environment for training the next generation of plant and microbial scientists, many of whom go on to careers in industry and academia, around the world.

The John Innes Centre is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). In 2014-2015 the John Innes Centre received a total of £36.9M from BBSRC.


BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, BBSRC invested over £509M in world-class bioscience in 2014-15. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

More information about BBSRC, our science and our impact.
More information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes.

About PBL

The John Innes Centre works through its subsidiary Plant Bioscience Ltd (PBL) to patent JIC’s scientific discoveries.

PBL’s mission is to protect and bring into public use the innovations generated by public research organisations particularly, though not exclusively, in the plant sciences. PBL therefore regularly files patents on such innovations in plant science. The information about these breakthroughs is made public via the scientific publications of public researchers that created them and also by the publication of the patent applications in the normal course of patent prosecution. PBL then licenses the patented inventions to business partners who bring in the substantial and long-term investment and development capabilities that are inevitably necessary to bring early stage public-research innovations to market.

When farmers, food producers and retailers adopt those innovations for the value they deliver, PBL and its academic and commercial partners each have the opportunity to receive a share of the benefits, enabling more research to be carried out for the generation of new innovations.

About Norwich Research Park and Norwich Research Partners LLP

Norwich Research Park is home to more than 12,000 people including 3,000 researchers and clinicians with an annual research spend of over £100M. Managed by Norwich Research Partners LLP, it is a partnership between the University of East Anglia, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, four independent world-renowned research institutes namely the John Innes Centre, Institute of Food Research and The Genome Analysis Centre (all strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council) and The Sainsbury Laboratory linked to the Gatsby Charitable Foundation. BBSRC is itself a partner as is the John Innes Foundation.

The main strength of Norwich Research Park is the concentration of world-leading scientists coupled with the capability for multidisciplinary research. We continue to build on this by attracting new partners and innovative businesses to the Park to collaborate in our research and to develop our vision.


UK Research and Innovation Media Office

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