The White House today released a national Bioeconomy Blueprint, a comprehensive approach to harnessing innovations in biological research to address national challenges in health, food, energy, and the environment. In coordination with the Blueprint’s release, Federal officials also announced a number of new commitments to help achieve the Blueprint’s goals.
The National Bioeconomy Blueprint describes five strategic objectives for a bioeconomy with the potential to generate economic growth and address societal needs. Although progress is being made in all of these areas, according to the Blueprint, much work remains if the United States is to remain competitive. The objectives are:
Support R&D investments that will provide the foundation for the future US bioeconomy. Coordinated, integrated R&D efforts will help strategically shape the national bioeconomy R&D agenda, the Blueprint notes, urging efforts to 1) expand and develop essential bioeconomy technologies; 2) integrate approaches across fields; and 3) implement improved funding mechanisms.
Facilitate the transition of bioinventions from research lab to market, including an increased focus on translational and regulatory sciences. A dedicated commitment to translational efforts will accelerate movement of bioinventions out of laboratories and into markets, the Blueprint says. This will include accelerating progress to market; enhancing entrepreneurship at universities; and utilizing Federal procurement authority.
Develop and reform regulations to reduce barriers, increase the speed and predictability of regulatory processes, and reduce costs while protecting human and environmental health. Improved regulatory processes will help rapidly and safely achieve the promise of the future bioeconomy.
Update training programs and align academic institution incentives with student training for national workforce needs. Federal agencies should take steps to ensure that the future bioeconomy has a sustainable and appropriately-trained workforce.
Identify and support opportunities for the development of public-private partnerships and precompetitive collaborations—where competitors pool resources, knowledge, and expertise to learn from successes and failures. Federal agencies should provide incentives for public-private partnerships and precompetitive collaborations to benefit the bioeconomy broadly.
Decades of life-sciences research and the development of increasingly powerful tools for obtaining and using biological data have brought us closer to the threshold of a previously unimaginable future: “ready to burn” liquid fuels produced directly from CO2, biodegradable plastics made not from oil but from renewable biomass, tailored food products to meet specialized dietary requirements, personalized medical treatments based on a patient’s own genomic information, and novel biosensors for real-time monitoring of the environment.
...The growth of today’s US bioeconomy is due in large part to the development of three foundational technologies: genetic engineering, DNA sequencing, and automated high-throughput manipulations of biomolecules. While the potential of these technologies is far from exhausted, a number of important new technologies and innovative combinations of new and existing technologies are emerging. Tomorrow’s bioeconomy relies on the expansion of emerging technologies such as synthetic biology (the direct engineering of microbes and plants), proteomics (the large-scale study and manipulation of proteins in an organism), and bioinformatics (computational tools for expanding the use of biological and related data), as well as new technologies as yet unimagined. There is also a set of emerging trends in recent research that foreshadow major advances in the areas of health, biological-based energy production, agriculture, biomanufacturing, and environmental clean-up.
...On September 16, 2011, President Obama announced that his Administration would release a National Bioeconomy Blueprint as part of his commitment to supporting scientific discovery and technological breakthroughs to ensure sustainable economic growth, improve the health of the population, and move toward a clean energy future Modeled after the Administration’s 2011 Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future,9 this 2012 National Bioeconomy Blueprint has two purposes: to lay out strategic objectives that will help realize the full potential of the US bioeconomy and to highlight early achievements toward those objectives.—National Bioeconomy Blueprint
In coordination with the release of the Bioeconomy Blueprint, a number of commitments supportive of the Blueprint’s goals were released by the Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Among them are initiatives to encourage Federal procurement of an expanded range of bio-based products; to take better advantage of large pharmaceutical data sets to speed drug development; to apply the latest genomics discoveries to quickly identify emerging microbial threats; and to accelerate research on non-embryonic stem cells as possible treatments for blood-related and neurological diseases.