September should be considered National Bioeconomy Month. Last September was the one-year anniversary of the 2022 presidential election. Executive Order on Promoting Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Innovation for a Sustainable, Safe, and Secure U.S. Bioeconomy (affectionately known as EO Bioeconomics). SynBioBeta celebrated the occasion by organizing a Showcase of bioeconomy products on Capitol Hill, which highlighted many different companies in the bioeconomy sector and proudly touted the bipartisan support in attendance. FAS ended the month by organizing a Day and dinner on Bioeconomy and Biomanufacturing Hill on September 28, 2023. We invited some of our subject matter experts to discuss their first-day memos and other contributions in-depth with key members of Congress.
Highlights of the day and dinner on the hill
- Workforce development for the bioeconomy was a hot topic. Our subject matter experts highlighted the need for workers with interdisciplinary skills including both bio and engineering or bio and computer science. Support for interdisciplinary scholarship (such as Department of Energy Computer Science Graduate Scholarship) could help fill this need. Robust training is necessary at all levels of biomanufacturing processes and could include internships, apprenticeships, and associate and bachelor’s degree programs.
- To create supply chain resilience and be competitive with other countries in the global bioeconomy, it is imperative to reduce the costs of producing the inputs needed for biomanufacturing (e.g., amino acids for biopharmaceuticals) and to produce these inputs in the United States. Our current dependence on other countries like China’s purchasing of these materials makes our bioeconomy fragile and vulnerable to disruption.
- A successful U.S. bioeconomy needs a policy framework that unites the different agencies working on different aspects of the bioeconomy, including investments (e.g., EDA Technology Centers, DoD Biomanufacturing StrategyAnd NSF BioFoundries) and regulatory oversight. The Bioeconomy EO and the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 call for the creation of a coordination office housed within the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), but there has been no movement towards the creation of this coordination office.
- The bioeconomy also needs appropriate financing. Many startups face the challenge that funding from VC firms requires a quick turnaround time for a return on investment (typically 3-5 years). Due to the nature of the products produced, many biotechnology companies are unable demonstrate their value so quickly. Additionally, moving from a laboratory bench to industrial-scale biomanufacturing is expensive and is considered too risky for traditional bank loans. For the bioeconomy to be economically viable, it will need financial measures (potentially tax incentives, credits or other financial programs) to support biomanufacturing so that companies can have the chance to demonstrate that they are viable and valuable .
- To capture the economic value of the bioeconomy and the impact of investments in this sector, appropriate metrics and metrics are needed. In March 2023, the The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released a feasibility report this indicated that it would be difficult to measure all aspects of the bioeconomy due to the lack of a consensus definition, but that a satellite account could be created to track certain aspects of the bioeconomy. However, for the BEA to create this type of account, Congress would have to appropriate the funds and direct the BEA to do so.
- Agencies across the executive branch are working toward a thriving, resilient, and globally competitive bioeconomy, but these agencies can do little without congressional champions on the Hill to continue to fight and fund the programs needed to achieve it.
Next year is crucial for the bioeconomy
In a short time, several federal agencies have advanced the U.S. bioeconomy, but there is no shortage of work to achieve a “sustainable, safe, and secure” bioeconomy. For next year we would like to see a updated definition of the American bioeconomy which takes into account and specifies which sectors are or are not part of the bioeconomy and which considers sustainability as its main priority. Furthermore, the The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) should update the Glossary of the bioeconomy and prioritize setting standards for biomanufacturing which uses a sectoral approach instead of a blanket normative approach to ensure that innovation is not stifled by standards that do not allow the flexibility needed in the biotech space.
In addition, it will be It is essential that the federal government establish a real framework for the American bioeconomy by creating a coordinating office housed within the OSTP. which works with the various federal agencies focused on the bioeconomy and provide support to publish reports led by the EO Bioeconomy on time. Furthermore, in order to achieve sustainable, safe and secure products, goods and services, it will be essential for the coordination office to collect public opinion to help shape and influence our bioeconomy.
Increased Congressional Involvement is also necessary to address the main challenges that the bioeconomy currently faces, such as the inability to measure the bioeconomy and the challenge that bioeconomy companies face (such as incomplete knowledge of the processes related to creating a startup , scaling goods and services, and navigating the regulatory system). THE BEA should be directed by Congress to create a satellite account to measure the U.S. bioeconomy And Congress should mandate a public-private landscape analysis of the current financial status of the U.S. bioeconomy. in order to be able to identify the financing gaps currently facing the sector.
There is no doubt that the bioeconomy has growth potential, but it needs a solid framework on which to build. Implementing any or all of these ideas will not only lead to a thriving bioeconomy, but it will also create one that is resilient, sustainable and secure.
first day project
Coordinating the U.S. government’s approach to the bioeconomy
To achieve a sustainable and strategic cross-agency approach to the bioeconomy, OSTP should establish a Bioeconomy Initiative Coordination Office to coordinate the U.S. Government’s strategic investments in the bioeconomy.
9 minutes of reading
Truly open science needs knowledge synthesis
Truly open science requires public access not only to research products, but also to the knowledge they contain.
4 minutes of reading