Ed Dart

Dr Ed Dart is Chairman of Plant Bioscience Ltd (PBL). His career and interests exemplify the way in which a small number of players have contributed to the commercialisation of  biological, and particularly biotechnology-related, research in the UK, as well as shaping advice on these issues to government.
Among the key influences that his career interweaves are the biotechnology company Zeneca; the UK's bio-science research funding council - the BBSRC; the UK's Science Minister, Lord Sainsbury; the Department of Trade and Industry where Lord Sainsbury is based; the UK's main plant biotechnology institute, the John Innes Centre and its Sainsbury Laboratory; and the Royal Society and the wider UK scientific community. 

Dart's involvement in the exploitation of biotechnology began in the early 1970s when he was working in the Corporate Laboratory of UK chemical giant, ICI. He went on to become Research Director of ICI Seeds (later Zeneca).

At Zeneca in the mid-1990s he oversaw the introduction into the supermarket chains Safeway and Sainsbury’s (then under the direction of David - later Lord - Sainsbury) of the UK's first GM product,  Zeneca's GM tomato paste. Following rising consumer concerns over GM products, the GM paste was finally withdrawn from sale in June 1999.

Dart's wider contribution to the commercialisation of the bio-sciences in the UK came through his involvement with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the BBSRC.

He chaired the Advisory Panel of the DTI's Biotechnology Exploitation Platform (BEP), a project aimed at helping the UK's public bio-scientists and their institutions to maximise commercial exploitation of their research outputs. In Dart's view the work of the BEP has helped to transform the science culture and attitudes towards commercialisation of scientific research in the UK.

Dart also chaired the Foresight Panel on Agriculture, established  to oversee how science could best contribute to the UK's economic competitiveness in this sector. The Foresight proposal to build businesses from genetics was written into the corporate plan of the BBSRC, leading to a strategy for integrating 'scientific opportunity' with the needs of industry.  

As a Council member of the BBSRC, Dart was not the research council's only Zeneca connection. Until summer 2003 the Chairman of the BBSRC was Peter Doyle, a director of Syngenta and former Chief Executive of Zeneca.  Doyle was still in charge of Zeneca when he took over as Chairman of the BBSRC.

The BBSRC is the main funder for the UK's plant bio-science institute, the John Innes Centre (JIC), into whose Sainsbury Laboratory Lord Sainsbury has invested about £2m a year via his Gatsby Foundation. As Science Minister, Lord Sainsbury  also determines the funding available for the BBSRC. The JIC, as well as being funded by the BBSRC, has also received tens of millions of pounds in funding from an investment deal launched by Zeneca Seeds before it became part of Syngenta. 

Completing the circle, Dart is now the Chairman of the 'for-profit technology interaction and intellectual property management company' which commercialises the research output of the JIC and its Sainsbury Laboratory. PBL was established in 1994 by the Lord Sainsbury's Gatsby Charitable Foundation and the JIC. During 1997, with support under a DTI Biotechnology Exploitation Platform (BEP) award, PBL expanded to manage intellectual property from other plant research laboratories at academic institutions and universities in the UK.

Dart was also, along with 4 members of the JIC, part of the Royal Society working group on GM foods whose 1998 report, 'Genetically Modified Plants for Food Use', is said to have reassured ministers on this issue. The Royal Society's first report on the issue broadly concluded that the use of GM plants had the potential to offer benefits in agricultural practice, food quality, nutrition and health.  

Almost every member of the group that produced the report was a known supporter of GM foods. The chairman was a leading Fellow of the Royal Society, Sir 


Back to the Profile