New tenant for Ella May Barnes building at Norwich Research Park

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The Ella May Barnes building, providing state-of-the-art laboratories and workspace at Norwich Research Park, has welcomed its first tenant.

Colorifix is a biotechnology company that has developed the first entirely biological process to produce, deposit and fix pigments onto textiles, a process which has been inspired by the way colours are produced in nature and engineered through synthetic biology. This process entirely cuts out the use of harsh chemicals and leads to huge reductions in water and energy consumption. Fashion brands like Pangaia, H&M and Vollebak have launched products dyed with Colorifix technology.

The company was started in 2016 by Jim Ajioka and Orr Yarkoni. Jim and Orr worked together at Cambridge University developing biological sensors to monitor heavy metal contamination in drinking water in Nepal and Bangladesh. While they were there, they learned from locals that one of the largest sources of contamination was textile dyeing waste. Jim and Orr realised that using synthetic biology, they could develop a real, viable solution for change.

Colorifix is currently working with the fashion industry to remove the need for fixing agents in the dyeing process, reducing the water needed by the industry by over 70%. In recognition of their work, Colorifix has been recently shortlisted for a prestigious EarthShot prize 2023, an international competition which seeks out environmental solutions that show the greatest potential to repair the planet.

The Ella May Barnes building was built to attract and provide space for organisations interested in the world-class science and healthcare provided on the Norwich Research Park. The building is expected to unlock further investment at the Enterprise Zone site that could lead to the creation of up to 150 jobs, adding to the community of 12,000 people that are already working at Norwich Research Park.

The building was named in honour of Dr Ella May Barnes OBE who was a leading microbiologist at the Norwich Food Research Institute in the 1970s. Today’s worldwide research into antibiotic resistance and food poisoning can be traced back to her discoveries. Dr Barnes, working with Dr Geoff Mead, subsequently developed pioneering processes in commercial poultry production which encouraged a healthy microbiome in chicks that inhibited the growth of Salmonella, helping to make poultry products safer.

South Norfolk Council and New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership worked together to invest over £7m in the 19,000 sq ft building and £2m towards the road infrastructure to open up this area of the park.

Norwich Research Park has one of the largest single-site concentrations of research in food, health and life sciences in Europe and is an internationally renowned centre of excellence hosting 3 of the 7 UK’s BBSRC research institutes, UEA the NNUH, plus a thriving business community that translates the science into real-life applications that positively change people’s lives both in the UK and across the globe.

South Norfolk Council Cabinet member, Lisa Neal, said: “I would like to welcome Colorifix to the Ella May Barnes building. This is another huge step forward and the Council continues to invest in the Norwich Research Park to allow our global lead in genetics and other life sciences to extend still further, providing the space for careers and ideas to grow.”

C-J Green, Chair of New Anglia LEP, said: “We are delighted to see this pioneering biotechnology company becoming the first tenant in this first-class facility. It is a move that will help to unlock growth and jobs in our Space To Innovate Enterprise Zone, and further enhance the reputation of Norwich Research Park as a world-leading centre for research in food, health and life sciences.”

Orr Yarkoni, co-founder and CEO of Colorifix, said: “Colorifix is only in the beginning of our journey to transform the way textiles are dyed and as our company continues to expand, our facilities become increasingly important. Our recent move into the Ella May Barnes building marks another significant milestone, facilitated by a great support system and close collaboration with brilliant scientific minds. This expansion has been possible by the South Norfolk Council and New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and as we grow over the next few years, we look forward to becoming a stronger part of the Norfolk business community.”

Roz Bird , CEO of Anglia Innovation Partnership LLP said: “Colorifix is a great example of an innovative industrial biotech company based at Norwich Research Park. The company joined the campus community in 2018 to benefit from the specialist facilities on site, including the Earlham Institute’s BioFoundry, and the engineering biology skills and expertise of the research community. The team has grown from a few people to over 80 staff, and it’s fantastic that, as they continue to expand and grow, they continue to consider Norwich Research Park as their Head Quarters.”

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