enabling early detection of habitat damage and providing feedback on the progress of restoration efforts.

  • Water supplies and other natural resources could be monitored and managed using biosensors and other biologically based processes.

  • Biological systems could remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thus helping to maintain a stable climate; the carbon they capture could be used to create biologically based materials for construction and manufacturing.

  • Biological sources could contribute at least 20 percent of the fuel for transportation through a 10-fold increase in biofuel production.

  • Bio-inspired approaches to producing hydrogen could provide another affordable and sustainable source of fuel.

  • Biologically inspired approaches to capturing solar energy could increase the efficiency and lower the cost of photovoltaic technology.

  • Manufactured products could increasingly be made from renewable resources and be either recyclable or biodegradable.

  • Industrial manufacturing processes could be designed to produce zero waste through a combination of biological treatment of byproducts and efficient recycling of water and other manufacturing inputs.

  • Greater understanding of what it means to be healthy could lead to health care focused on maintaining health rather than reacting to illness.

  • Individualized risk profiles and early detection could make it possible to provide each person with the right care at the right time.

Science and technology alone, of course, cannot solve all of our food, energy, environmental, and health problems. Political, social, economic, and many other factors have major roles to play in both setting and meeting goals in these areas. Indeed, increased collaboration between life scientists and social scientists is another exciting interface that has much to contribute to developing and implementing practical solutions. But the life sciences have the potential to provide a set of tools and solutions that can significantly increase the options available to society for dealing with problems. Integration of the biological sciences with physical and computational sciences, mathematics, and engineering promises to build a wider biological enterprise with the scope and expertise to address a broad range of scientific and societal problems. The following chapters will discuss why the life sciences are poised to tackle major challenges of the 21st century, describe why we reside at such an exceptional moment for the life sciences, and finally, provide recommendations for shaping investment in life science research.

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