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To date, work undertaken at the John Innes Centre and The Sainsbury Laboratory has resulted in a number of ground-breaking and practical solutions to global challenges. Our work is the result of academic research as well as intense collaboration with the private sector to explore specific and applied scientific solutions to societal problems and economic development.

Our work delivers the five levers to harness the power of plants and microbes

TRAINING the world’s smartest minds in plant and microbial science

BIG DATA analysis to sequence genes at a rate unimaginable only a few years ago; accelerating desirable attributes such as bigger grain size in wheat or yields in oilseed rape

DISCOVERY of solutions enabling agri-business and pharmaceuticals to create products with profound societal impact

PARTNERSHIPS with research institutes in the UK and worldwide to tackle emerging threats, and currently unforeseen threats to food production and human health

SUPPORT for industry and the private sector by extending our capabilities to allow organisations to conduct the most sophisticated interdisciplinary research and product development at pace

How we’re bringing our vision to life

Unlocking a £4.3 billion opportunity in the wheat genome

The value of John Innes Centre discoveries in wheat are worth £4.9 billion globally.

Using multiple state-of-the-art genetic approaches, John Innes Centre scientists have unlocked some of the hidden potential for increased yield within the wheat genome. By controlling the genetic mechanism that determines seed size, increases in grain weight of up to 13% are now possible.

The centre’s current wheat programme will generate an additional £4.3 billion in global gross value-added over the next 25 years through improved productivity

Biofortifying grains to combat malnourishment

It’s been estimated that globally 43% of children 29% of children of reproductive age have anaemia, and about half of these cases result from iron deficiency.

Zinc deficiency is associated with stunted growth in children under the age of 5 years and reported to affect approximately 155 million children globally.

Recent research by the John Innes Centre into the wheat genome has produced a variant that contains twice the typical amount of iron, something that cannot be achieved by normal breeding and only made possible by the latest developments in scientific practice.

A drone over arable fields

Finding solutions to industrial challenges

The John Innes Centre and The Sainsbury Laboratory’s expertise in the practical application of plant and microbial-based discoveries is the basis for expansive collaboration with industry.

Private sector collaboration is a core function of the John Innes Centre and The Sainsbury Laboratory, and our institutions play a vital role in extending our capabilities to industry, allowing organisations to conduct crucial product research and development that would not be possible in-house.

Our capabilities lead to the creation of products and technologies that enable businesses to thrive, creating significant economic value across multiple sectors. As a hub and focal point for research, we allow ideas to evolve into commercial realities for societal benefit.

Reactive and pre-emptive strikes against plant diseases

In the case of ash-dieback – a devastating pathogen that affects ash trees and could cost the UK £7 billion over the next six years – The Sainsbury Laboratory, John Innes Centre and neighbouring Earlham Institute led through their own funding the sequencing of the pathogen to identify genetic strategies to combat it.

Our expertise in microbial science has also enabled partnerships between The Sainsbury Laboratory and the BecA-ILRI Hub in Kenya, and International Potato Centre in Uganda, to develop new disease-resistant varieties of rice and potatoes for sub-Saharan Africa.


Using plant and microbial science as a test bed for new vaccines

Hypertrans, a John Innes Centre-developed platform for synthesising viral particles in plants, is now at the forefront of developing vaccines to COVID-19, zika, polio, and animal infections such as Bluetongue virus in sheep.

Practical applications will be crucial in the development in vaccines for other existing and emergent viral infections. An example can be seen in vaccine adjuvants originating from rare South American trees which are now being produced in standard laboratory plants to address biodiversity and health Issues.

In addition, a key discovery made at The Sainsbury Laboratory, RNA interference, has led to a completely new class of drug for human healthcare, recently approved by both the Food and Drug Administration in the United States, and the NHS in the UK.


Global risks: why we need to act now

We have a rapidly closing window of time in which to address three critical challenges facing society and the planet that sustains us


HP³: science-based solutions 

The importance of plants to life on Earth is staggering. Along with the microbes they interact with, plants contain vast amounts of information that we study and translate into practical solutions


A new UK hub

HP³ is an ambitious, collaborative call to action needed to meet these global challenges