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NAS Issues Report on Preparing for Future Products of Biotechnology
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 (Committee), 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; 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. Lynn L. Bergeson was an external contributor to the Committee’s deliberations and presented before the Committee on the subject of the biotechnology regulatory system.
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 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 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.