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Posted on June 06, 2023 by editor
By Lisa R. Burchi, James V. Aidala, and Heather F. Collins, M.S.
On May 31, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a final rule exempting a class of plant-incorporated protectants (PIP) created using genetic engineering, from registration requirements under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), and from the food or feed residue tolerance requirements under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). 88 Fed. Reg. 34756. PIPs are pesticidal substances produced by plants and the genetic material necessary for the plant to produce the substance. According to EPA’s May 25, 2023, press release, this rule will reduce costs for the regulated community and result in increased research and development activities, consistent with Executive Order 14081 on advancing biotechnology. EPA states that the rule also may result in the commercialization of new pest control options and reduced use of conventional pesticides. The final rule will be effective on July 31, 2023.
EPA states the final rule will allow PIPs to be exempt from FIFRA registration and FFDCA tolerance requirements in cases where they both pose no greater risk than PIPs that EPA has already concluded meet safety requirements, and when they could have otherwise been created through conventional breeding. The final rule reflects the biotechnological advances made since 2001, when EPA first exempted PIPs derived through conventional breeding from FIFRA registration and FFDCA tolerance requirements but did not at that time exempt PIPs created through biotechnology.
In the rule, EPA provides criteria and definitions that identify two categories of PIPs that are exempted through this action from FIFRA registration and FFDCA tolerance requirements:
- “PIPs created through genetic engineering from a sexually compatible plant” in which genetic engineering has been used to insert or modify a gene to match a gene found in a sexually compatible plant (to be codified at 40 C.F.R. Section 174.26); and
- “Loss-of-function PIPs” in which the genetically engineered modification reduces or eliminates the activity of a gene, which then helps make the plant resistant to pests (to be codified at 40 C.F.R. Section 174.27).
For the first exempted category, EPA will require a notification process for EPA to confirm that the PIP is eligible for the exemption. For the second exempted category (loss-of-function PIPs), developers of PIPs can submit to EPA a self-determination letter that the exemption applies. EPA also is establishing recordkeeping requirements for these exempted PIPs, clarifying general qualifications for exemption at 40 C.F.R. Section 174.21; clarifying the relationship between the existing exemptions for PIPs from sexually compatible plants (40 C.F.R. Section 174.25) and the newly issued exemption for “PIPs created through genetic engineering from a sexually compatible plant” (40 C.F.R. Section 174.26); and allowing the existing inert ingredient exemption at 40 C.F.R. Section 174.705 to include genetic engineering.
EPA notes that in the future, as biotechnology advances further, it intends to consider exempting additional categories of PIPs from both FIFRA registration and FFDCA tolerance requirements as well as adding categories of exempted PIPs to the list of categories that do not require EPA confirmation of eligibility.
Additional information, including the response to comment document, is available in docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2019-0508.
This final rule is the next step for EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) on the path of EPA’s regulation of biotechnology pesticide products. It sets forth how OPP will handle products created by “Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats” (CRISPR). In more general terms, CRISPR refers to manipulating plant genes with a method that was not available at the time the first biotechnology regulations were developed by EPA in the mid-1990s. This is why EPA needs to “update” its regulations, which is the purpose of the final rule.
Proponents of biotechnology methods argue that CRISPR allows the genes of plants to be manipulated more precisely and can be used to “simply” drop out a gene or add one from the same -- sexually compatible -- genome of the target plant. It follows that this is much like “traditional plant breeding” only done more precisely and more rapidly. Critics will likely raise questions about whether any product using this method, and not using traditional methods, might have some kind of unexpected result or unintended eventual effect. One can expect some adverse comments regarding these products even though EPA (among many others) lays out a rationale that this is an extension of its current regulations exempting products of traditional plant breeding from regulation under FIFRA/FFDCA (and not exempting such products from other regulatory authorities).
There also were concerns raised in comments submitted in response to the October 9, 2020, proposed rule. In particular, some in industry remain concerned that the final rule creates differential treatment for products due solely to the methods of development (i.e., biotechnology vs. conventional), thus subjecting products created using biotechnology to additional regulatory and recordkeeping requirements, even in cases when those products could have been created using older research and development approaches.
EPA’s basic requirements for biotechnology products that regulate inter-species gene manipulation would not change. Also worth noting is that the rule also would allow a developer to submit the product for EPA review to affirm that it qualifies for the exemption (i.e., a M009 Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA) action, which can lead to EPA delays in processing). The EPA docket includes a slide deck with a helpful summary of the final rule and its rationale.
Posted on May 03, 2023 by Lynn L Bergeson
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On April 25, 2023, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced that it published a new five-year strategic plan. According to APHIS, it incorporates input it received from stakeholders on the strategic framework, a summarized version of the plan that it published in June 2022. The plan includes six strategic goals that focus on working to:
- Protect agriculture from plant and animal diseases and pests. Objective 5 is “Ensure the development of safe agricultural biotechnology products using a science-based regulatory framework.” This includes:
- Conducting efficient risk-based permit review and issuance for organisms developed using genetic engineering to ensure they are safely contained or confined during movement or release;
- Using plain language to communicate clearly APHIS regulations, expectations, and guidance to stakeholders, particularly those working with modified non-plant organisms potentially subject to APHIS regulations; helping stakeholders understand regulations through outreach, workshops, toolkits, and other means; and
- Working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to increase coordination and harmonization of regulatory oversight for biotechnology products within each agency’s existing statutory framework;
- Cultivate a talented, diverse, and public service-focused workforce where employees are supported, valued, and engaged;
- Reduce the impacts of zoonotic and emerging diseases and climate change. Objective 3 is “Mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.” This includes:
- Incorporating climate change scenarios when evaluating the plant pest risk associated with biotechnology products; and
- Working with federal partners to develop clear, efficient, predictable, and risk-based regulatory pathways for safely bringing microbial and other new products that help address climate change to market, and helping developers of such products navigate the regulatory system;
- Maintain and expand the safe trade of agricultural products nationally and internationally. Objective 2, “Maintain and expand the Agency’s leadership role through international standard setting and collaboration,” includes promoting engagement, collaboration, and harmonization of agricultural biotechnology regulation with trading partners, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and other international and regional organizations. Objective 3, “Create safe export opportunities,” includes:
- Communicating to international stakeholders about APHIS’ processes and share outcomes of biotechnology product evaluations;
- Working with trade agencies on technical aspects of trade in biotechnology products; and
- Working with the regulatory authorities of U.S. trading partners to harmonize further regulatory frameworks for biotechnology products;
- Manage wildlife damage and threats to agriculture, natural resources, property, and people; and
- Promote the welfare of animals.
Posted on May 01, 2023 by Lynn L Bergeson
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) published a request for information (RFI) on April 27, 2023, seeking public input on existing or potential bioeconomy-related industries and products that are established, emerging, or currently embedded in existing industry/manufacturing processes. 88 Fed. Reg. 25711. As reported in our September 13, 2022, blog item, on September 12, 2022, President Joseph Biden signed an Executive Order (EO) creating a National Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative “that will ensure we can make in the United States all that we invent in the United States.” Under the EO, the Chief Statistician of the United States (CSOTUS) in OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) was charged with improving and enhancing federal statistical data collection designed to characterize and measure the economic value of the U.S. bioeconomy. The CSOTUS was also charged with establishing an Interagency Technical Working Group (Working Group) to recommend bioeconomy-related revisions for the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and the North American Product Classification System (NAPCS). OMB states that the bioeconomy refers to a segment of the total economy utilizing or derived from biological resources and includes manufacturing processes, technologies, products, and services. These may encompass, wholly or in part, industries and products including fuel, food, medicine, chemicals, and technology. To ensure consideration of comments on potential bioeconomy-related industries and products solicited in the RFI, OMB asked that all comments be submitted “as soon as possible,” but no later than June 12, 2023.
The Working Group, through OMB, seeks input on how to identify, classify, and measure best bioeconomy manufacturing, technology, and products, including those that are primarily or exclusively: (a) biobased, (b) components of traditional manufacturing processes, and (c) nascent biobased processes and products. Importantly, according to OMB, input should include information on how particular industries or products are linked to the bioeconomy and, where appropriate and available, evidence should be provided. OMB states that this will afford the Working Group the opportunity to use existing evidence to inform its recommendations. The RFI includes the following questions:
- What information and what high-priority concerns should the Working Group consider in making these recommendations for potential revisions to the NAICS and NAPCS that would enable characterization of the economic value of the U.S. bioeconomy?
- Which quantitative economic indicators and processes are currently used to measure the contributions of the U.S. bioeconomy? Are these indicators reasonably accurate measures of the product components, scope, and value of the bioeconomy? Please explain why.
- Which industries not currently measured as unique classifications in NAICS related to the bioeconomy should be considered? Similarly, which products not currently measured as unique classifications in NAPCS related to the bioeconomy should be considered? Please describe how a unique classification for such industry or product would meet the principles of NAICS and NAPCS. Please include a description of the industry or product, with specific examples. Please also provide an explanation of how such industry or product would advance understanding of measuring the bioeconomy.
- How might potential changes to the NAICS impact existing industry measurements, such as assessing changes in the economic output across current industries, time series measures, or data accuracy?
- What role can the NAPCS fill in order to advance measurement of biomanufacturing and biotechnology?
- Biobased processes and products that are embedded in traditional industries pose challenges for differentiation and measurement. Are there methodologies that can differentiate these bioeconomy processes from current manufacturing processes to enable measurement? If yes, please explain.
- What potential bioeconomy measurement strategies might be considered other than revisions to and inclusion in the NAICS or NAPCS? For example, are there ways the federal government could better collect information to provide better measurement on biobased processes or products in current industries?
Posted on April 05, 2023 by Lynn L Bergeson
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
As part of the National Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) announced in September 2022 an investment of $1.2 billion in bioindustrial domestic manufacturing infrastructure to catalyze the establishment of a domestic bioindustrial manufacturing base accessible to U.S. innovators. As reported in our March 30, 2023, blog item, on March 22, 2023, DOD released its Biomanufacturing Strategy to guide these investments, and its broader efforts in this critical technology field. According to the Biomanufacturing Strategy, as commercial use of new technologies expands, if the United States fails to invest in its domestic manufacturing capabilities, market forces could drive manufacturing overseas, often at the expense of the national economy and potentially creating vulnerabilities in the DOD supply of these products.
The Biomanufacturing Strategy is focused around three core principles:
- Establish DOD transition partners for early-stage innovations: Establishing DOD customers for biomanufactured capabilities will guide DOD technology investments. The core of the DOD Biomanufacturing Strategy is a culture shift throughout DOD that both recognizes and prioritizes, where applicable, biotechnology-based solutions to prevent strategic surprise.
- Develop the field of biomanufacturing through innovations in practice and application; According to the Biomanufacturing Strategy, research is required in scaling-up biomanufacturing to produce at a scale sufficient to prototype these products. The Biomanufacturing Strategy states although this is a hurdle in adopting biotechnology-based solutions to DOD mission needs, “it is also an incredible opportunity to develop biomanufacturing at home and with allies and partners to create a self-sustaining domestic biomanufacturing ecosystem.” It will also contribute to the United States remaining the “world leader in innovation,” guarantee DOD interests are protected, and ensure that U.S. global competitiveness in biotechnology is maintained.
- Map the domestic biomanufacturing ecosystem and the changes that occur over time for identification and tracking of metrics to support future implementation and refinement of the biomanufacturing strategy: According to the Biomanufacturing Strategy, for DOD to build enduring advantage through the implementation of the Biomanufacturing Strategy, DOD needs to address implementation risk. Concurrent with DOD’s need to prioritize where it places its resources in biomanufacturing, DOD “will support an upfront assessment of the biomanufacturing ecosystem, along with continued evaluation during and following early investments, allowing for more precise tailoring” of DOD resource allocation as the biomanufacturing ecosystem develops. The Biomanufacturing Strategy states that mapping the biomanufacturing ecosystem and establishing metrics to evaluate the bioeconomy “is central to mitigating implementation risk.”
In support of the Biomanufacturing Strategy, DOD issued a formal request for information (RFI) on biomanufactured products and process capabilities that could help address defense needs and whose development and commercialization could be addressed by DOD investment. The intent of the RFI is to gather information about U.S. national security industrial base shortcomings, risks, and opportunities that may be addressed by investments made under the provisions in Title III of the Defense Production Act (DPA). According to the RFI, biomanufactured products of interest include those that “enable capabilities within the following application and operational spaces of interest, and will bring revolutionary changes to military capabilities, the operations environment, and supply chain resiliency.” Such application and operational spaces may include, but are not necessarily limited to:
- Manufacture specialty chemicals and materials that are needed by DOD in an available and affordable manner (e.g., biomanufactured fuels and energetic precursors, biosynthetic fibers such as but not limited to spider silk, polymers, natural rubber/latex rubber, solvents);
- Enable reduced logistic costs, time, and energy through bio-composite and living materials (e.g., tunable materials with enhanced properties, self-healing materials);
- Maintain persistent sensing capabilities for sustained human and environmental intelligence (e.g., sensors for water quality monitoring, biobased energy harvesting in maritime systems);
- Augment human systems by impacting performance and protection (e.g., tailored proteins, but specifically excluding biopharma and probiotics); and
- Enable manufacturing defense relevant materials in a manner to reduce the impact on the environment while meeting or exceeding product performance requirements.
Responses are due by April 19, 2023, at 12:00 p.m. (EDT). The RFI notes that if late information is received, the government reviewers may consider it, depending on agency time constraints.
Posted on April 03, 2023 by Lynn L Bergeson
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
As reported in our March 30, 2023, blog item, on March 22, 2023, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released a new report, Bold Goals for U.S. Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing: Harnessing Research and Development to Further Societal Goals. The report includes five sections, each presenting goals that highlight what could be possible with the power of biology. The goals set ambitious national targets for the next two decades to help establish research and development (R&D) priorities that will be critical to advance the bioeconomy. Each section also outlines the essential R&D needed to achieve these goals for the U.S. bioeconomy, opportunities for public-private collaboration, and recommendations for enhancing biosafety and biosecurity. The report notes that achieving these goals will require significant prioritization of R&D investments and other efforts across the U.S. government, as well as actions from the private sector; state, local, and Tribal governments; and international partners.
The report states that bold goals for the U.S. bioeconomy include, for example:
- Climate: In 20 years, demonstrate and deploy cost-effective and sustainable routes to convert biobased feedstocks into recyclable-by-design polymers that can displace more than 90 percent of today’s plastics and other commercial polymers at scale;
- Food and Agriculture: By 2030, reduce methane emissions from agriculture, including by increasing biogas capture and utilization from manure management systems, reducing methane from ruminant livestock, and reducing methane emissions from food waste in landfills, to support the U.S. goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50 percent and the global goal of reducing methane emissions by 30 percent;
- Supply Chain: In 20 years, produce at least 30 percent of the U.S. chemical demand via sustainable and cost-effective biomanufacturing pathways;
- Health: In 20 years, increase the manufacturing scale of cell-based therapies to expand access, decrease health inequities, and decrease the manufacturing cost of cell-based therapies tenfold; and
- Cross-Cutting Advances: In five years, sequence the genomes of one million microbial species and understand the function of at least 80 percent of the newly discovered genes.
According to this report, reaching these goals will require progress in other areas beyond R&D to ensure that innovation can lead to safe, effective, and equitable products that will grow the bioeconomy. The report states that in forthcoming reports and plans, departments and agencies will outline recommendations and steps that are underway to advance the following:
- Data for the bioeconomy -- Establishing a Data Initiative to ensure that high-quality, wide-ranging, easily accessible, and secure biological data sets can drive breakthroughs for the U.S. bioeconomy;
- Domestic biomanufacturing infrastructure -- Expanding domestic capacity to manufacture all the biotechnology products invented in the United States and to support a resilient supply chain;
- Workforce development -- Growing training and educational opportunities for the biotechnology and biomanufacturing workforce of the future;
- Regulatory clarity and efficiency -- Improving the clarity and efficiency of the regulatory process for biotechnology products to help ensure products come to market safely and efficiently;
- Biosafety and biosecurity -- Creating a Biosafety and Biosecurity Innovation Initiative to reduce risks associated with advances in biotechnology and biomanufacturing; and
- International engagement R&D -- Pursuing cooperation through joint research projects and data sharing, while mitigating risks and reaffirming democratic values.
According to the report, OSTP will lead the development of a strategy and implementation plan to execute on R&D priorities and other actions identified in the report.
Posted on March 30, 2023 by Lynn L Bergeson
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
As reported in our September 13, 2022, blog item, President Joseph Biden signed an Executive Order (EO) on September 12, 2022, creating a National Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative “that will ensure we can make in the United States all that we invent in the United States.” On March 22, 2023, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) published a fact sheet announcing “new bold goals and priorities that will catalyze action inside and outside of government to advance American biotechnology and biomanufacturing”:
- Harnessing Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Research and Development (R&D) to Further Societal Goals: On March 22, 2023, OSTP released a new report, Bold Goals for U.S. Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing: Harnessing Research and Development to Further Societal Goals, outlining a vision for what is possible with the power of biotechnology and biomanufacturing and the R&D needs to achieve this ambitious vision. Biden’s EO called on federal departments and agencies to assess the potential for biotechnology and biomanufacturing R&D to further five societal goals: climate change solutions; food and agricultural innovation; supply chain resilience; human health; and crosscutting advances. The report includes individual sections authored by the Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Department of Commerce (DOC), the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and the National Science Foundation (NSF), in consultation with other agencies and departments, that are responsive to the President’s EO. The goals and R&D needs outlined in the report serve as a guide for public- and private-sector efforts to harness the full potential and power of biotechnology and biomanufacturing to develop innovative solutions in different sectors, create jobs at home, build stronger supply chains, lower costs for families, and achieve our climate goals. According to the fact sheet, OSTP will now lead the development of an implementation plan to address the R&D needs outlined in the report.
- Establishing Biomanufacturing Priorities for DOD: As part of the National Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative, DOD announced in September 2022 an investment of $1.2 billion in bioindustrial domestic manufacturing infrastructure to catalyze the establishment of a domestic bioindustrial manufacturing base accessible to U.S. innovators. On March 22, 2023, DOD released its Biomanufacturing Strategy to guide these investments, and its broader efforts in this critical technology field. This strategy, which will guide research efforts and collaboration with the private sector and allies, sets three key priorities: establishing the customers within DOD that stand to benefit from early-stage innovations, advancing biomanufacturing capabilities through innovation, and mapping the biomanufacturing ecosystem and tracking metrics that support future efforts. In support of the strategy, DOD issued a formal request for information on biomanufactured products and process capabilities that could help address defense needs and whose development and commercialization could be addressed by DOD investment.
- Assessing the Economic Value of the Nation’s Bioeconomy: DOC’s Bureau of Economic Analysis released a new report that assesses the feasibility of measuring the economic contributions of the U.S. bioeconomy. The report also includes an assessment of what is needed to measure these contributions better and more accurately.
According to the fact sheet, other deliverables from the EO are in development, including: a plan to expand training and education opportunities for the biotechnology and biomanufacturing workforce, a report on data needs for the bioeconomy, a national strategy for expanding domestic biomanufacturing capacity, actions to improve biotechnology regulation clarity and efficiency, and a plan for strengthening and innovating biosafety and biosecurity for the bioeconomy.
Posted on December 20, 2022 by Lynn L Bergeson
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
As reported in our September 13, 2022, blog item, on September 12, 2022, President Joseph Biden signed an Executive Order creating a National Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative (NBBI) to accelerate biotechnology innovation and grow America’s bioeconomy across multiple sectors in industries such as health, agriculture, and energy. On December 20, 2022, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) published two requests for information (RFI) related to the NBBI. In the first one, OSTP, on behalf of the primary agencies that regulate the products of biotechnology -- the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) -- requests relevant data and information, including case studies, that may assist in identifying any regulatory ambiguities, gaps, inefficiencies, or uncertainties in the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology, particularly with regard to new and emerging biotechnology products. 87 Fed. Reg. 77900. According to the RFI, the information provided will inform regulatory agency efforts to improve the clarity and efficiency of the regulatory processes for biotechnology products. The RFI includes the following questions:
- Describe any ambiguities, gaps, inefficiencies, or uncertainties regarding statutory authorities and/or agency roles, responsibilities, or processes for different biotechnology product types, particularly for product types within the responsibility of multiple agencies.
- Describe the impact, including economic impact, of these ambiguities, gaps, inefficiencies, or uncertainties.
- Provide any relevant data or information, including case studies, that could inform improvement in the clarity or efficiency (including the predictability, transparency, and coordination) of the regulatory system and processes for biotechnology products.
- Describe any specific topics the agencies should address in plain language on the regulatory roles, responsibilities, and processes of the agencies.
- Describe any specific issues the agencies should consider in developing a plan to implement regulatory reform, including any updated or new regulations or guidance documents.
Describe any new or emerging biotechnology products (e.g., microbial amendments to promote plant growth; food plants expressing non-food substances or allergens from non-plant sources) that, based on lessons learned from past experiences or other information, the agencies should pay particular attention to in their evaluation of ambiguities, gaps, or uncertainties regarding statutory authorities and/or agency roles or processes.
Describe any new or emerging categories of biotechnology products on the horizon that the regulatory system and processes for biotechnology products should be preparing to address. Describe any specific recommendations for regulating these new or emerging categories of biotechnology products to guide agency preparations.
What is the highest priority issue for the agencies to address in the short term (i.e., within the next year) and in the long term.
OSTP, EPA, FDA, and USDA will host a virtual public listening session on January 12, 2023. The virtual listening session will allow OSTP, EPA, FDA, and USDA to hear, firsthand, from stakeholders who wish to provide feedback on any of the seven questions outlined in the RFI. Comments are due on or before 5 p.m. (EST) February 3, 2023. More information on the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology is available in our January 9, 2017, memorandum.
The second RFI seeks public input on how advances in biotechnology and biomanufacturing can help achieve goals that were previously out of reach and what steps can be taken to provide the right research ecosystem, workforce, data, domestic biomanufacturing capacity, and other components to support a strong bioeconomy. 87 Fed. Reg. 77901. OSTP invites input from interested stakeholders, including industry and industry association groups; academic researchers and policy analysts; civil society and advocacy groups; individuals and organizations that work on biotechnology, biomanufacturing, or related topics; and members of the public. OSTP seeks responses to one, some, or all of the following questions:
Harnessing Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Research and Development (R&D) to Further Societal Goals
- For any of the four categories outlined above (health, climate and energy, food and agriculture, and supply chain resilience):
- What specific bold goals can be achieved through advances in biotechnology and biomanufacturing in the short term (five years) and long term (20 years)? In your answers, please suggest quantitative goals, along with a description of the potential impact of achieving a goal. Listed below are illustrative examples of quantitative goals:
- Develop domestic bio-based routes of production, including the entire supply chain, for X percent of active pharmaceutical ingredients.
- Utilize X tons of sustainable biomass annually as input to biomanufacturing processes to displace Y percent of U.S. petroleum consumption.
- What R&D is needed to achieve the bold goals outlined in (a), with a focus on cross-cutting or innovative advances? How would the government support this R&D, including through existing federal programs, creation of new areas of R&D, and/or development of new mechanisms?
- How else can the government engage with and incentivize the private sector and other organizations to achieve the goals outlined in (a)?
- Public engagement and acceptance are of critical importance for successful implementation of biotechnology solutions for societal challenges. How might social, behavioral, and economic sciences contribute to understanding possible paths to success and any hurdles? What public engagement and participatory models have shown promise for increasing trust and understanding of biotechnology?
Data for the Bioeconomy
What data types and sources, to include genomic and multiomic information, are most critical to drive advances in health, climate, energy, food, agriculture, and biomanufacturing, as well as other bioeconomy-related R&D? What data gaps currently exist?
How can the federal government, in partnership with private, academic, and non-profit sectors, support a data ecosystem to drive breakthroughs for the U.S. bioeconomy? This may include technologies, software, and policies needed for data to remain high-quality, interoperable, accessible, secure, and understandable across multiple stakeholder groups.
Building a Vibrant Domestic Biomanufacturing Ecosystem
What is the current state of U.S. and global biomanufacturing capacity for health and industrial sectors, and what are the limits of current practice?
What can the federal government do to expand and scale domestic biomanufacturing capacity and infrastructure? What level of investment would be meaningful, and what incentive structures could be employed?
What are barriers that must be addressed to enable better domestic supply chains for biomanufacturing (e.g., feedstocks, reagents, consumables)?
How can the federal government partner with state and local governments to expand domestic biomanufacturing capacity, with a particular focus on underserved communities?
Biobased Products Procurement
What are new, environmentally sustainable biobased products that the federal government could purchase through its BioPreferred Program? How can the federal government incentivize development of new categories of sustainable biobased products?
Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Workforce
How can the U.S. strengthen and expand the biotechnology and biomanufacturing workforce to meet the needs of industry today and in the future? What role can government play at the local, state, and/or federal level?
What strategies and program models have shown promise for successfully diversifying access to biomanufacturing and biotechnology jobs -- including those involving Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), Tribal Colleges and Universities, and other Minority Serving Institutions? What factors have stymied progress in broadening participation in this workforce?
Reducing Risk by Advancing Biosafety and Biosecurity
- What can the federal government do to support applied biosafety research and biosecurity innovation to reduce risk while maximizing benefit throughout the biotechnology and biomanufacturing life cycles?
- How can federal agencies that fund, conduct, or sponsor life sciences research incentivize and enhance biosafety and biosecurity practices throughout the United States and international research enterprises?
Measuring the Bioeconomy
What quantitative indicators, economic or otherwise, are currently used to measure the contributions of the U.S. bioeconomy? Are there new indicators that should be developed?
How should the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and the North American Product Classification System (NAPCS) be revised to enable characterization of the economic value of the U.S. bioeconomy? Specifically, which codes or categories do not distinguish between functionally identical biobased and fossil fuel-based commodities?
- What are opportunities for the U.S. government to advance R&D, a skilled workforce, regulatory cooperation, and data sharing for the bioeconomy through international cooperation? Which partnerships and fora are likely keys to advance these priority areas?
- What risks are associated with international biotechnology development and use, and how can the U.S. government work with allies and partners to mitigate these risks?
Comments are due on or before 5:00 p.m. (EST) on January 20, 2023.
Posted on December 05, 2022 by Lynn L Bergeson
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On November 30, 2022, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) announced that its scientists have determined that plants could be used to produce nanobodies that quickly block emerging pathogens in human medicine and agriculture. The nanobodies are small antibody proteins naturally produced in specific animals like camels, alpacas, and llamas. ARS researchers evaluated nanobodies to prevent and treat citrus greening disease in citrus trees. The scientists are now using their newly developed and patented SymbiontTM technology to show that nanobodies can be easily produced in a plant system with broad agricultural and public health applications. According to ARS, as a proof-of-concept, researchers showed that nanobodies targeting the SARS-CoV-2 virus could be made in plant cells and remain functional in blocking the binding of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to its receptor protein: the process responsible for initiating viral infection in human cells.
AgroSource, Inc. collaborated with ARS to develop the plant-based production system. According to ARS, they are currently taking the necessary steps to see how they can move this advancement into the commercial sector. ARS notes that this research collaboration is in response to the White House’s Executive Order on advancing biotechnology and biomanufacturing innovation for a sustainable, safe, and secure American bioeconomy.
Posted on October 24, 2022 by Lynn L Bergeson
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced on October 21, 2022, that it recently reviewed a corn plant and a potato plant that were modified using genetic engineering to determine whether they present an increased pest risk as compared to unmodified plants. APHIS has posted its Regulatory Status Review (RSR) responses on its website, as required under 7 C.F.R. Part 340. According to APHIS, the corn plant, from Infinite Enzymes, Inc., was modified to produce the enzyme manganese peroxidase in corn seed and to make it resistant to the herbicide glufosinate. The potato plant, from J.R. Simplot Company, was modified to make it resistant to potato late blight and potato virus Y and to alter the potato tuber’s sugar profile and quality.
According to APHIS, in both cases, it “found these plants unlikely to pose an increased plant pest risk compared to other cultivated corn and potato plants.” As a result, they are not subject to regulation under 7 C.F.R. Part 340. From a plant pest risk perspective, these plants may be safely grown and used in breeding in the United States. APHIS notes that its responses are based on information from the developers and its own:
- Familiarity with plant varieties;
- Knowledge of the traits; and
- Understanding of the modifications.
Under 7 C.F.R. Part 340, developers may request an RSR when they believe a modified plant is not subject to regulation. APHIS reviews the modified plant and considers whether it might pose an increased plant pest risk compared to a nonregulated plant. If its review finds a plant is unlikely to pose an increased plant pest risk relative to the comparator plant, APHIS issues a response indicating the plant is not subject to the regulations.
Posted on October 14, 2022 by Lynn L Bergeson
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Biotechnology Risk Assessment Research Grants (BRAG) program supports the generation of new information that will assist federal regulatory agencies in making science-based decisions about the environmental effects of introducing genetically engineered organisms. In an October 27, 2022, technical assistance webinar, staff will provide an overview of the program, which is jointly administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Agricultural Research Service (ARS), and discuss details included in the fiscal year (FY) 2023 Request for Applications (RFA). NIFA plans to invest $5.5 million in this funding opportunity, which supports applied and/or fundamental research relevant to environmental risk assessment, including biological risk, and the federal regulatory process. Applications may be submitted by any U.S. public or private research or educational institution or organization. The closing date for grant applications is January 19, 2023. Registration for the webinar is required.