The John Innes Centre (JIC) has been 'a major player in the development of genetic manipulation technologies for the benefit of UK industry.' Its applied work has attracted great commercial interest and has been described as 'underpinning biotechnology worldwide'.
It is located on a 50 acre site in the Norwich Research Park (UK). Also on the site is the Sainsbury Laboratory, funded primarily through Lord Sainsbury's Gatsby Charitable Foundation. Together the JIC and Sainsbury Laboratory have over 850 staff and students.
The JIC's Director, Chris Lamb, is responsible for the management and administration of the JIC's affairs in conjunction with the JIC's Governing Council. Amongst its members are Prof Anthony Trewavas, Prof Chris Leaver and National Farmers' Union President, Ben Gill (nicknamed 'Biotech Ben' by Private Eye because of his enthusiasm for GM crops).
JIC scientists have been highly influential in UK government advisory circles, serving on key regulatory committees, such as ACNFP and ACRE. JIC scientists have also been notable contributors to reports on GM that are known to have been highly influential with Ministers, e.g. those of the Nuffield Council, the House of Lords Select Committee, the Royal Society, the Science Review Panel.
Prof Mike Gale, for instance, was one of four JIC scientists who were members of the working group that produced the Royal Society's 1998 report on GM. He was part of the 4 man Royal Society team who contributed to the report on GM in 2000 of seven national or international academies of science. He also gave evidence to the working group who produced the Royal Society's 2002 report on GM. He has served on the Governments Advisory Committee on Genetic Modification and was a member of the Government's Science Review Panel. He's also a member of the Nuffield Council on Bio-ethics.
In the JIC's own estimation, the exposure it achieves in the media is 'excellent' and helps enhance its external profile. As welll as media work, the JIC's science communication activities encompass advice to politicians, policy makers, and other opinion formers, public meetings, exhibitions, conferences, a special GM website, a web-based schools' project (funded by Lord Sainsbury's Gatsby Foundation), as well as the commissioning of plays on GM foods to tour UK secondary schools. The JIC also hosts a Teacher-Scientist Network which links nearly 100 teachers in local schools with the JIC and the Norwich Research Park.
These activities have proven controversial and several of the JIC's Senior Scientists, including Prof David Baulcombe, Prof Jonathan Jones and Prof Phil Dale, have attracted criticism in this regard.
JIC and Sainsbury Laboratory 'technology transfer' is largely managed through the for-profit company Plant Bioscience Limited (PBL), chaired by Ed Dart (formerly with Zeneca) and jointly owned by the JIC and Lord Sainsbury's Gatsby Charitable Foundation. In 2000/01 PBL had a £1M turnover and a portfolio of over 60 patented technologies.
The JIC is grant-aided by the public funding body, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). Other funding sources include the EU and Lord Sainsbury's Gatsby Foundation. The JIC has also received funding from all the major biotech companies, including multi-million pound investments. In 1998 the JIC announced £10M of investment by Dupont and £50M by Syngenta (the original commitment in '98 was made by Zeneca).
This investment led to the construction of a Syngenta laboratory to aid the close cooperation of JIC scientists with up to 40 Syngenta colleagues. According to the JIC's Director Chris Lamb, 'Collaborations with companies, such as Syngenta, is one way t