Leaf Systems' bioscience research and development facility will produce proteins, metabolites and complex natural products. Credit: John Innes Centre.
Leaf Systems’ facility is located at the Norwich Research Park. Credit: R G Carter.
The research facility will use Hypertrans® expression technology to develop products from plants. Credit: BBSRC.
The facility will include plant-growing areas and laboratories. Credit: John Innes Centre.

Leaf Systems International has opened a bioscience research and development (R&D) facility at the Norwich Research Park in Norfolk, UK.

A spin-off from the John Innes Centre (JIC), Leaf Systems will use the facility to produce proteins, metabolites and complex natural products. The company is a joint venture between JIC, Plant Bioscience (PBL), Norwich Research Partners and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The joint venture partners collaborated for the development of the R&D facility.

Norwich Research Partners was responsible for the facility’s construction. The company submitted the planning application for the project to the South Norfolk Council in February 2016.

A ground-breaking ceremony for the facility was held in June 2016 and construction was completed by January 2017. The facility is expected to be fully operational by the end of March 2017.

Location details of the Leaf Systems facility in Norfolk

The facility is located at zone two of the Norwich Research Park Enterprise Zone, next to JIC’s laboratory.

The Norwich Research Park is situated in 230ha of parkland, which includes 52ha of Enterprise Zone with development land ideal for companies to set up bespoke office space and research facilities. The research park provides flexible laboratory and office accommodation, as well as facilities for growing businesses.

R&D at the Leaf System facility in Norfolk

The two-storey bioscience R&D facility has a 1,000m² total floor space and includes plant-growing areas and development laboratories. It will serve companies and research organisations by manufacturing adequate quantities of valuable proteins and other natural products to facilitate research and product development.

Leaf Systems will work with companies as a contract development partner to build up and increase the production of products or intermediates. It will also work with academic scientists to convert the science into scalable processes or discover new technologies.

The company also plans to participate in translational R&D consortia, including European Union (EU) framework programmes.

Technology used at Leaf Systems’ research facility

Leaf Systems uses a system called Hypertrans® expression technology to produce proteins in plants. The patented technology was developed at the JIC by Professor George Lomonossoff and Dr Frank Sainsbury as a plant-based system for producing proteins.

Proteins developed using Hypertrans can be extracted by crushing the leaves and then purifying the product from the leaves. The technology achieves quick protein production compared to existing commercial processes, which use yeast cultures, bacteria and animal tissue for developing proteins and vaccines. The technology also allows protein to be produced in large quantities in response to emergencies such as epidemics.

The technology can also be used for manufacturing products such as pharmaceuticals and vaccines as part of the contract for international R&D partners. It can further be used in the production of antigens, including virus-like particles for vaccine development or nanotechnology.

Leaf Systems has licensed the technology to Canadian biopharmaceutical company Medicago, which is using it to produce influenza vaccines for clinical trials in Canada and the US.

Contractors involved in the project

UK-based architecture firm LSI Architects as responsible for designing the facility, while construction company R G Carter was awarded the construction contract.