Our science strategy.

EI's research brings together a wealth of expertise in biosciences, bioinformatics, high performance computing and statistics to understand complex biological systems in plants and animals and their interaction with the environment.

Our advanced genomics and computational platforms support data-intensive research that embraces and confronts modern scientific challenges arising from data scale and complexity. We develop and implement new technologies and apply computational methods to process, store and interpret diverse datasets, to enable bioscience research.

Our science strategy was developed by our Director of Science, Prof Federica Di Palma, along with our science faculty.

Our research.

The faculty collectively conducts three kinds of research activities:

  • Fundamental research to increase our knowledge base in bioscience
  • Applied research to improve plant, animal and human health
  • Enabling research to empower both academia and industry with new technologies and scalable bioinformatics approaches.

Scientific Programmes.

EI has three interdisciplinary programmes under which the faculty, fellows, postdocs and students aggregate to consolidate their expertise and to significantly increase our scientific impact.

  • Digital Biology

Here we focus on developing computational tools and infrastructure to push the boundaries of data-driven informatics in the life sciences and enable key stages of the data lifecycle: management, integration, and interpretation.

Projects include the development of novel platforms for management of research data and software, implementation of computationally intensive algorithms for data quality assessment and assembly, design of large-scale data visualisation to improve user experience, and best practice and training in bioinformatics.

  • Organisms and Ecosystems

We use multidisciplinary approaches to understand genomes, and how they regulate and control the biological complexities of plant and animal health.

In crops, a major focus is on discovering and understanding genetic diversity and its impact on traits of agronomic interest. We develop genomic tools and resources to enable plant breeders, research communities and genebanks in support of crop improvement. We apply state-of-the-art genomics and informatics to investigate fundamental principles of plant innate immunity and the interactions between plants and their microbial pathogens. We explore key molecular mechanisms underlying vertebrate species diversity.

We also develop and implement effective computational methodologies for the assembly and annotation of large and difficult plant (e.g. wheat) and vertebrate genomes, and to characterise the complexity of eukaryotic transcriptomes and microbial communities.

  • Engineering Biology

EI recently received funding to establish a DNA foundry facility in support of academic activities in plant and microbial genomics research at the John Innes Centre, The Sainsbury Laboratory and other organisations on the Norwich Research Park.

In this emerging programme our research includes the development of software engineering approaches to optimise construct design for long DNA molecule fabrication and underpin programmes in synthetic biology.

Interpreting complex images from high throughput plant phenotyping platforms is included in this theme.

Related reading.