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Globalization, Biosecurity, and The Future of the Life Sciences
to a knowledge-based approach to develop assistance for less fortunate countries,2 the Mexican national agenda to become a regional leader in genomic medicine,3 Singapore’s plan to make biotechnology the “fourth pillar” of its economy (the other three being electronics, chemicals, and engineering),4 and the U.S. government’s current investment in biodefense.
These drivers operate globally but at varying levels of intensity, depending on national priorities and the strength of local and regional economies. This variability is particularly true of the social and political forces that drive this development. Moreover, the relative importance or strength of the different social, economic, and political drivers changes over time. Within the United States, for example, this country’s response to the anthrax mailings following the 9/11 terrorist attacks has emerged only recently as an economic driver. While biodefense spending is still tiny in comparison with the pharmaceutical market forces, it is currently contributing to the shaping of national priorities related to life sciences research. The U.S. focus on 9/11 and biodefense research has also resulted in new immigration and other policies that impact international collaborative scientific research and technological exchange and thus could have a broader impact on science and technology in this country (as discussed in Chapter 4).
In Mexico, a relatively recent national aspiration to become a regional leader in genomic medicine is driving a strongly supported effort to bolster the scientific and technological capacity to do so.5 In addition to the public health and social benefits expected of personalized health care, the Mexican government perceives the issue as one of national security and sovereignty. A Mexican-specific genomic medicine platform would minimize the country’s dependence on foreign technological aid in the future. Meanwhile, in Singapore, where similar efforts are focused on building a national genomic medicine platform, the value of genomic medicine lies in its economic potential. The country is investing billions of dollars in biotechnology, much of the money coming from the Ministry of Trade and Industry, rather than the Ministry of Health.6
Inseparable from the diverse economic, social, and political drivers described thus far, another driver—or “mega driver”—of the rapid growth and global dispersion of advanced technologies is globalization itself. In the National Intelligence Council’s most recent report on future global trends, globalization is referred to as a “mega-trend … a force so ubiquitous that it will substantially shape all the other major trends in the world of 2020.”7 Globalization encompasses the expanding international flow of: