Major investment in food science and security

One of the world’s foremost research institutes, the UK’s John Innes Centre, has recently been awarded £77.9million in a series of new strategic programme investments by the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Four new strategic research programmes will be funded over the next five years, to deliver fundamental insights into plant and microbial life and to use those insights to address high-profile national and global challenges in agriculture, the environment, and human health and wellbeing:

* 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

* 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.

These four strategic programmes will be underpinned by core capabilities at the John Innes Centre, ensuring that its status as one of the world’s strongest plant science research centres is maintained.

The potential impact of the new programmes is significant.

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, thus better equipped to face increased variability in climate extremes and new and re-emerging diseases.

Director of JIC, Dale Sanders says, “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.”

Professor Melanie Welham, BBSRC Chief Executive says, “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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