Senate committee approves bioeconomy R&D bill

By Erin Voegele | May 26, 2020

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on May 20 passed the Bioeconomy Research and Development Act of 2020. The bill, S. 3734, aims to strengthen and broaden engineering biology by establishing an initiative to advance research and development, advance biomanufacturing, develop the future bioeconomy workforce, and support research in ethical, legal, environmental, safety, security and societal issues. The legislation would also establish a committee to coordinate research in engineering biology across the federal agencies.

The bill was introduced on May 15 by Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colo.; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Ed Markey, D-Mass.; and Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

“Like the technological revolution and the Industrial Revolution before it, the biological revolution will reshape how we interact with and understand the world around us,” Gardner said. “I’m proud to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to develop a stronger bioeconomy, which will lead to new scientific developments like improved vaccines and innovations in agriculture, food, medicine, clothing, and more.” 

“Biotechnology and life sciences innovation drives our bioeconomy, and this legislation will ensure that the United States remains a leader in engineering biology research and innovation, supporting the hundreds of thousands of workers in the health, energy, agriculture, and manufacturing sectors that contribute to this field,” Markey added. “Massachusetts is more than the Bay State, we are the Brain State and our state’s bioeconomy is our lifeblood. The coronavirus pandemic has shown us how important it is to coordinate science research and stay at the forefront of health technology, whether it is detecting new viruses or rapidly developing vaccines. This bill will enable us to better coordinate bioengineering research and ensure we remain a global leader.”

One provision of the bill would establish an initiative through the White House office of Science and Technology Policy to strengthen and broaden the country’s research capacities. Additionally, the bill aims to coordinate engineering biology research being undertaken by all federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Department of Energy, Department of Defense, NASA, USDA, National Institutes of health, Food and Drug Administration, and EPA. Within the bill, the DOE is directed to conduct and support research, development, demonstration and commercial application activities in engineering biology, including in the areas of synthetic biology, advanced biofuel development, biobased material and environmental remediation. Similarly, the USDA is directed to support research and development in engineering biology, including synthetic biology and biomaterials.

A full copy of the bill can be downloaded from Gardner’s website.