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New Director for John Innes Centre

2 March 2010

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the John Innes Foundation and the John Innes Centre Governing Council have announced the appointment of Professor Dale Sanders FRS as Director and Chief Executive of the John Innes Centre (JIC).

Prof Sanders will take up the post on 1 September 2010.

JIC is a BBSRC Institute and one of the world's leading centres of excellence in plant and microbial science. It can trace its foundation to the establishment of the John Innes Horticultural Institution in the London suburbs in 1910. Now based on the Norwich Research Park, JIC conducts fundamental and strategic research across a range of bioscience disciplines which provide knowledge to address the grand challenges of global food security, living with environmental change and healthy ageing. JIC facilities operate on land owned by the John Innes Foundation, an independent charity established by the legacy of the philanthropist John Innes.

Prof Sanders is currently Head of the Department of Biology at the University of York. He joined York in 1983 as a lecturer, following a PhD at the University of Cambridge and a five-year post-doctoral fellowship at Yale School of Medicine, Yale University, USA. Prof Sanders assumed his current post as Head of Department in 2004. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2001.

Prof Sanders is a leading authority on the mechanisms for the transport of chemical elements across cell membranes in plants. These mechanisms have key roles in the control of crucial crop traits such as nutritional value of foods, seed germination, the response to drought conditions and how plants cope with toxic compounds in the soil. Prof Sanders also works on the basic science of specialised plant transport mechanisms which have important but currently poorly understood roles in plant biology. He has authored over 140 scientific papers, many of which have been highly cited.

Prof Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: "Prof Sanders is a leading and internationally recognised plant scientist. He brings an exceptional track record in plant membrane transport that will complement JIC's world-class research teams and management experience that will help him to build on the strong legacy of the previous Director, the late Chris Lamb. I am much looking forward to working with Prof Sanders as he helps to capitalise on JIC's scientific strengths to contribute to BBSRC's recently announced strategic aims of helping to strengthen global food security and industrial biotechnology, and to generate knowledge to underpin health."

Prof Sanders said: "The John Innes Centre has an unrivalled global reputation for excellence in plant and microbial sciences. I am looking forward to taking up the role as Director and Chief Executive and leading the Centre in building on its scientific strengths and harnessing its expertise for the benefit of society in the UK and beyond. JIC scientists - who have established international acclaim for world-leading basic research - can help to shape the future of our world, through contributing to the development of new, higher quality or disease resistant crops to improve food security, and by discovering new antibiotics from studies in microbes. It will be a privilege to work with front-rank scientists and to lead the Institute in the coming years."

Prof Michael Bevan, Acting Director of the John Innes Centre, said: "Prof Sanders brings a new perspective and a wealth of experience in scientific leadership from a leading University to the John Innes Centre that will help guide our science in the future. He takes over an exceptionally strong and productive research Centre that is making significant contributions to several important challenges facing our society, such as food security and health. Prof Sanders's appointment will strengthen our ability to make further scientific advances relevant to food production and healthy living."

Prof Sanders succeeds Prof Chris Lamb CBE FRS who died in August 2009. Prof Mike Bevan has been Acting Director in the intervening period and will continue to hold that post until 1 September 2010.



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Notes for editors

Interviews available on request.

About the John Innes Centre

The John Innes Centre,, is an independent, world-leading research centre in plant and microbial sciences with over 800 staff. JIC is based on Norwich Research Park and carries out high quality fundamental, strategic and applied research to understand how plants and microbes work at the molecular, cellular and genetic levels. The JIC also trains scientists and students, collaborates with many other research laboratories and communicates its science to end-users and the general public. The JIC is a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council Institute.


BBSRC is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £450 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life in the UK  and beyond and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders, including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.

BBSRC provides institute strategic research grants to the following:

The Babraham Institute, Institute for Animal Health, Institute for Biological, Environmental and Rural Studies (Aberystwyth University), Institute of Food Research, John Innes Centre, The Genome Analysis Centre, The Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh) and Rothamsted Research. The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.

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