By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On May 31, 2017, Deinove, a biotech company focused on producing high-value compounds from rare bacteria, announced the beginning of the second phase of a project with Flint Hills Resources to develop a nutritional supplement for animal feed. Flint Hills Resources is a member of BRAG and a leading refining, petrochemicals, and biofuels company in the United States.
During the first phase of the project, which began in November 2015, several bacterial strains were selected from Deinove’s library to produce target compounds. The second phase will involve:
- Producing the additives in sufficient quantities to test their beneficial effects on the target animal species and analyze the results obtained;
- Optimizing the fermentation parameters; and
- Defining the technical and economic conditions for the development of the production process.
Depending on the results of efficacy tests, one or two strains may be selected for the industrialization step.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On March 9, 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) announced the release (pre-publication version) of a new report: Preparing for Future Products of Biotechnology. Pursuant to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy's (OSTP) July 2, 2015, memorandum, “Modernizing the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products,” NAS was tasked with looking into the future and describing the possible future products of biotechnology that will arise over the next five to ten years, as well as providing some insights that can help shape the capabilities within the agencies as they move forward. More information regarding the July 2015 memorandum is available on our website under the key phrase Biobased Products, Biotechnology.
Via an ad hoc committee, the Committee on Future Biotechnology Products and Opportunities to Enhance Capabilities of the Biotechnology Regulatory System, NAS developed this report through several months of gathering and synthesizing information from several sources, including: 74 speakers over the course of three in-person meetings and eight webinars, including one presented by Lynn L. Bergeson; responses to its request for information from a dozen federal agencies; statements solicited from members of the public at its in-person meetings; written comments through the duration of the study; and recent NAS studies related to future products of biotechnology.
The report presents conclusions concerning the future biotechnology products themselves, as well the challenges that federal agencies will face in regulating them, which include:
- The bioeconomy is growing rapidly and the U.S. regulatory system needs to provide a balanced approach for consideration of the many competing interests in the face of this expansion;
- The profusion of biotechnology products over the next five to ten years has the potential to overwhelm the U.S. regulatory system, which may be exacerbated by a disconnect between research in regulatory science and expected uses of future biotechnology products;
- Regulators will face difficult challenges as they grapple with a broad array of new types of bio-technology products -- for example, cosmetics, toys, pets, and office supplies -- that go beyond contained industrial uses and traditional environmental release;
- The safe use of new biotechnology products requires rigorous, predictable, and transparent risk-analysis processes whose comprehensiveness, depth, and throughput mirror the scope, scale, complexity, and tempo of future biotechnology applications.
The report provides three recommendations for federal agencies in responding to these challenges, which it states should be taken to “enhance the ability of the biotechnology regulatory system to oversee the consumer safety and environmental protection required for future biotechnology products”:
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and other agencies involved in regulation of future bio-technology products should increase scientific capabilities, tools, expertise, and horizon scanning in key areas of expected growth of biotechnology, including natural, regulatory, and social sciences.
- EPA, FDA, and USDA should increase their use of pilot projects to advance understanding and use of ecological risk assessments and benefit analyses for future biotechnology products that are unfamiliar and complex and to prototype new approaches for iterative risk analyses that incorporate external peer review and public participation.
- The National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and other agencies that fund bio-technology research with the potential to lead to new biotechnology products should increase their investments in regulatory science and link research and education activities to regulatory-science activities.
The report is well-written and contains an impressive amount of new, relevant, and important information. The Committee participants are to be commended for an important new piece of scholarship in this area.
The report’s conclusions are also significant, but not entirely unexpected. For those of us working in this space, we have recognized for years the lack of clarity regarding jurisdictional boundaries, the paucity of government resources, and the urgent need for regulatory clarity and significantly enhanced funding. Unfortunately, given current Trump Administration efforts to diminish government funding for EPA, FDA, and elsewhere, the well-crafted and spot-on recommendations may tragically fall on deaf ears. Shareholders should carefully review the report and work hard to ensure the recommendations are implemented. The consequences of failing to “increase scientific capabilities, tools, expertise, and horizon scanning in key areas of expected growth of biotechnology, including natural regulatory, and social sciences” -- the number one recommendation in the report -- are too great to ignore.
Lynn L. Bergeson, Managing Partner of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®), and Charles M. Auer, Senior Regulatory and Policy Advisor with B&C, have published “An Analysis of TSCA Reform Provisions Pertinent to Industrial Biotechnology Stakeholders,” in Industrial Biotechnology. This article discusses how the “New [Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)] fundamentally changes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) approach to evaluating and managing industrial chemicals, including genetically engineered microorganisms. The body of changes, the careful balancing of countless competing needs and interests, and artful drafting yield a statute that has been greatly strengthened and addresses virtually all of the deficiencies that have impeded TSCA's effectiveness over the years. The changes are consequential, and stakeholders in the industrial biotechnology community could be greatly impacted by them, depending upon how EPA interprets and discharges its new authorities. This article highlights key changes of which stakeholders should be aware, sets forth the law's schedule by which EPA is to implement the changes, and identifies opportunities for stakeholders to engage in rulemaking or other activities to help influence the implementation process to ensure that it is firmly rooted in a clear understanding of the science, and of the risks and benefits offered by products of industrial biotechnology.”
On January 4, 2017, the White House announced the release of the 2017 Update to the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology. The 2017 Update provides a comprehensive summary of the roles and responsibilities of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with respect to regulating biotechnology products. Together with the National Strategy for Modernizing the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products, published in September 2016, the 2017 Update offers a “complete picture of a robust and flexible regulatory structure that provides appropriate oversight for all products of modern biotechnology.” Within that regulatory structure, the federal agencies “maintain high standards that, based on the best available science, protect health and the environment, while also establishing transparent, coordinated, predictable and efficient regulatory practices.” More information is available in Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.’s (B&C®) memorandum White House Announces Release of Final Update to the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On January 4, 2017, the White House announced the release of the 2017 Update to the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology (2017 Update). The Update to the Coordinated Framework provides a comprehensive summary of the roles and responsibilities of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with respect to regulating biotechnology products. Together with the National Strategy for Modernizing the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products, published in September 2016, the Update to the Coordinated Framework offers a “complete picture of a robust and flexible regulatory structure that provides appropriate oversight for all products of modern biotechnology.” Within that regulatory structure, the federal agencies “maintain high standards that, based on the best available science, protect health and the environment, while also establishing transparent, coordinated, predictable and efficient regulatory practices.” To help product developers and the public understand what the regulatory pathway for products might look like, the 2017 Update presents information about agency roles and responsibilities in several forms, including:
- Graphics that illustrate agency-specific overviews of regulatory roles;
- Case studies that demonstrate how a product developer might navigate the regulatory framework; and
- A comprehensive table that summarizes the current responsibilities and the relevant coordination across EPA, FDA, and USDA for the regulatory oversight of an array of biotechnology product areas.
In its blog item, “Increasing the Transparency, Coordination, and Predictability of the Biotechnology Regulatory System,” the Obama Administration acknowledges that while the 2017 Update represents “remarkable progress by the EPA, FDA, and USDA to modernize the regulatory system for biotechnology products, much work remains.” EPA, FDA, and USDA will consider the comments submitted in response to the proposed 2017 Update and information gathered during the three public engagement sessions hosted by EPA, FDA, and USDA to inform ongoing and future agency activities. In addition, the agencies commissioned an independent study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) on future biotechnology products. When completed, the agencies will consider the study’s findings, as well as the comments. More information on the Update to the Coordinated Framework will be available in our forthcoming memorandum, which will be available on our website under the key phrase biobased products, biotechnology.
As previously reported in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group’s (BRAG®) Biobased and Renewable Products Update of September 22, 2016, Clarifying Current Roles and Responsibilities Described in the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology (Update to the Coordinated Framework) was published in the Federal Register . The Update to the Coordinated Framework provides a comprehensive summary of the roles and responsibilities of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with respect to the regulation of biotechnology products. More information about what this means for the future of biotechnology and the biotechnology industry is available in the Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) memorandum “Biotechnology: White House Releases Proposed Update to the Coordinated Framework and National Strategy for Modernizing the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products.” Comments are due by November 1, 2016, at 5:00 p.m. (EDT).
On October 17, 2016, the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) announced over £3 million in investments over six synthetic biology projects. IBioIC was founded by Ingenza Ltd, GlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK), and INEOS to connect academic expertise in synthetic biology with industrial capabilities from businesses in the area. IBioIC focuses on biotechnology in health, industrial, agriculture, and marine areas. Recipients of the £3 million in funding are:
|“Synpromics with University of Edinburgh to enable better gene therapy;
|Lucite International with University of St Andrews to increase the sustainability of acrylic glass;
|Unilever with University of Edinburgh to create “greener” skin cleansers;
|Ingenza Ltd with University of Glasgow to develop advanced metrology (measurements) for biotechnology;
|Twist Bioscience with University of Edinburgh to develop tools to engineer yeast strains for fuels and pharmaceuticals; and
||Nissan Chemicals with University of Glasgow for new tools for bio-production of pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, cosmetics.
On October 11, 2016, Microvi Biotechnologies Inc. (Microvi) announced that it had been awarded a grant by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for work on new biocatalytic technology that converts the methane and carbon dioxide (CO2) found in biogas into valuable liquid chemicals. This technology utilizes the biogas created at landfills and wastewater treatment plants that is usually burned off into the atmosphere due to the current burdensome conversion process. Microvi’s technology is expected to be much more efficient than conventional gas-to-liquid conversion processes, and will produce in-demand chemicals such as biobutanol.
On October 12, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a public meeting on the draft Algae Guidance for the Preparation of [Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)] Biotechnology Submissions (Algae Guidance) in the Federal Register. This meeting will receive public input and comments on the draft Algae Guidance that describes EPA’s data needs for supporting risk assessments of genetically engineered algae and cyanobacteria that are manufactured, imported, or processed, and are subject to regulations under Section 5 of TSCA. The meeting will be held in Tempe, Arizona on October 27, 2016. Only 120 people will be able to attend the meeting in person, however, due to space limitations. Registrants not able to attend in person can access the meeting through a live web stream and teleconference capabilities. Registration is available through the Eastern Research Group (ERG) website.