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2016 News

November 2016

Yangling Agricultural Fair & UK China Agritech Innovation Forum

PBL were represented at the 23rd China Yangling Agricultural Hi-tech Fair in November 2016, the largest exhibition of this kind which is co-hosted by the Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Agriculture, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and others. As part of the event, PBL’s Lars von Borcke participated in the UK China Policy Roundtable event, organised by the British Embassy Beijing and attended by the Chinese Ministry of Science & Technology as well as a range of eminent Chinese Scientists.

The event, and the subsequent UK China Agritech Innovation Forum, attended by scientists and many companies, was an excellent opportunity for PBL to further build on our connections with the Chinese science community and establish new contacts with Chinese agricultural companies.

For more information, please contact Dr Lars von Borcke.

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October 2016

Establishment of Leaf Systems International Limited

Established as a joint venture between PBL, JIC and the BBSRC, Leaf Systems is a new company that will deliver both translational and commercial R&D projects utilising the proprietary Hypertrans® plant expression technology.

Hypertrans® is used for the production of high-value products in plant tissues, and was developed by Prof George Lomonossoff and Dr Frank Sainsbury at the JIC, winning them the BBSRC Innovator of the Year Award in 2012. The technology is already in commercial
use for the development and manufacture of human and animal vaccines. Leaf Systems will act as a bridge between academic and commercial users of the Hypertrans® system, building on existing avenues of exploitation and developing new and exciting applications for its use, such as plant metabolic engineering.

A bespoke building is taking shape on the Norwich Research Park to house the company, and Leaf Systems will open its doors for business in Q1 2017.

For more information, please contact Dr Martin Stocks or Leaf Systems Operations Director, Dr Philip Cater.

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September 2016

George Lomonossoff & Medicago - Review of Plant Molecular Production

A review article describing the history and explaining the exciting future of plant transient expression systems has been published in the September 2016 issue of Science by Prof George Lomonossoff of the John Innes Centre and Dr Marc-Andre d’Aoust of Medicago Inc.  Prof Lomonossoff is the inventor of the Hypertrans® plant expression system that is the pre-eminent expression system for such applications (see article above).  Medicago is a key licensee of the technology and has refined and developed it to create a fully GMP-compliant vaccine production platform.  The article charts the development of plant expression systems and the current upsurge in interest in their use, following on from high-profile news stories and successes, such as the experimental use of the plant-made Z-MAPP therapeutic during the recent Ebola outbreak and the highly promising clinical trials for Medicago’s portfolio of influenza vaccines.

George P Lomonossoff and Marc-André D'Aoust.  Plant-produced biopharmaceuticals: A case of technical developments driving clinical deployment.  Science 353 (6305), 1237-1240.

For more information, please contact Dr Martin Stocks.

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August 2016

Sensors in Food and Farming

In-soil nitrate sensor technology

Dr Tony Miller of the John Innes Centre has created a prototype device to continuously measure nitrate (and, in further developments, other important nutrients) in the field throughout a whole growing season. The early prototype has been tested successfully by a number of collaborators and has enabled accurate, real-time measurements of nitrate at various soil depths over a twelve month period, under various crops such as wheat and potato. This unprecedented flow of data gives unique insights into changing levels of nitrate in response to fertilisation, rainfall, temperature and uptake by crop plants. The nutrient sensing technology has been patented by PBL.

Currently Dr Miller is developing a second generation prototype with support from the Norwich Research Park Translational Fund. This second generation prototype is using ceramics in order to make the device more robust. Early testing is looking promising and PBL has now engaged with commercial development partners. We expect that a commercial nitrate sensor will be available within the next two years, enabling farmers to optimise their nitrate fertilizer input leading to higher yields, lower cost and avoiding the environmental impact of nitrate leaching.

For more information, please contact Dr Lars von Borcke.  PBL Tech ID 12.545.


Potato Sprouting Detectors

A recurrent problem for potato growers and processors is the propensity for stored potato crops to prematurely sprout in storage, rendering the tubers unfit for consumption. For some varieties, such as King Edward, in poor years up to 50% of the crop can be lost this way. Currently, stored potato crops are sprayed with chemical sprouting suppressants, either routinely according to a regular schedule or on first visible signs of sprouting occurring. In the first scenario, this results in a substantial build up of chemical residues on the tubers and in the second, there is a tangible deterioration in crop quality.

Now, scientists at the Institute of Food Research have devised a simple technique, using inexpensive electronic components, that can predict the onset of sprouting in a stored crop several days or even weeks before any visible signs can be found. This innovation holds out the promise of spraying crops only at need, reducing chemical use over all, and minimising crop deterioration in storage. The technology has been patented by PBL and partners are being sought to bring the technology into use in the UK and US.

For more information, please contact Dr Martin Stocks.  PBL Tech ID 13.573.

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June 2016

UK-China research success published in PNAS: Increased crop yields by improved pH homoestasis

A collaboration between JIC and Nanjing Agricultural University has led to the discovery that increasing the expression of a rice gene, NRT2.3b, enhances crop performance.  The innovation is patented and licensed by PBL for commercial development in several different crop species. 

Please click here for the announcement of the PNAS paper.

For more information on the NRT2.3b technology (PBL Tech 12.546), please click here, or contact Dr Jan Chojecki.

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April 2016

Nature Biotechnology looks at GM wheat for gluten sufferers

Will Europe toast GM wheat for gluten sufferers?  Please click here for a link to the Nature Biotechnology journal article.

For more information on Wheat with Reduced Gliadins (PBL Tech 10.512) please click here or contact Dr Jan Chojecki.

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