£5m molecular farming facility announced at Norwich Research Park launch

5th Aug 2014

Plans for a new £5m molecular farming facility furthering ground-breaking technologies invented at the John Innes Centre in Norwich were announced on 23rd July 2014. The announcement was made by Professor Jackie Hunter, BBSRC Chief Executive, at an event marking the opening of the landmark new Centrum building on the Norwich Research Park.

The new facility will use a technology invented by Professor George Lomonossoff and Dr Frank Sainsbury, BBSRC Innovators of the Year in 2012, and will establish Norwich as a leading international centre for research and development in the use of plants to produce high value compounds.

The technology is already in use in Canada, where pharmaceutical company Medicago has a greenhouse of plants on permanent readiness to be able to produce vast quantities of vaccine in the event of a pandemic flu - the technology has meant it is possible to now produce 10m doses of a vaccine in 30 days compared with 9 months using traditional methods.

The announcement formed part of the official opening of the Centrum building on the Norwich Research Park, by the Minister for Life Sciences George Freeman. Mr Freeman also launched the Norwich Research Park’s Virtual Technology Centre – a website which enables ease of access for academics and businesses, to the wealth of scientific technology platforms at the John Innes Centre and other institutes across the Norwich Research Park.

The Centrum building, Virtual Technology Centre and future molecular farming facility are part of a substantial £26M project funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to develop a thriving research and innovation campus, supporting start-up, early-stage companies and attracting inward investment from multinational corporate organisations involved in science and technology.

The Centrum will also be home to a new John Innes centre spin-out company called Persephone Bio Ltd. - this company will take to market the research of Prof Cathie Martin and Dr Eugenio Butelli, who were named as the BBSRC's most promising innovators of 2014 for their research into boosting the nutritional quality of tomatoes.

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