ultimately by States Parties when discussions surrounding S&T move into the realm of policy options and potential action.
This chapter has three major sections. The first section examines the forces mentioned above that broadly affect how S&T trends develop, including the differential impact of drivers such as commercial interests, some of the barriers to the distribution of scientific knowledge and capacity, and other factors that may present current roadblocks to progress. Tracking and analyzing the impact of these factors could be considered areas of potential interest for future monitoring of S&T trends. In the second section, the committee draws on the workshop results to highlight the relevance of S&T to the BWC’s provisions. The final section discusses possible roles for the scientific community in contributing to future BWC discussions of S&T. The chapter ends with the committee’s overall findings and conclusions.
The difficulty of attempting to predict future trends and developments is well recognized, and it was noted during the workshop that one should always prepare to be surprised. With this caveat in mind, the committee did not attempt to forecast the state of life sciences knowledge in the years ahead. However, the committee did discuss some of the common drivers of life sciences research, and these are illustrated with brief examples, below. S&T areas that are being pushed forward strongly by these drivers would be expected to continue to rapidly advance. The more general impetus for S&T advances arising from investments as part of broader national development strategies was discussed in Chapter 3 (see Section 3.1.2). Investments are important, but the amount of money invested is not necessarily a sign that one field will advance more rapidly than another. To date, for example, the substantial investments in systems and synthetic biology have yielded only limited commercial products.
Commercial markets are a powerful driver of life sciences research, in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries as well as in sectors such as agriculture and energy. Several of the S&T areas discussed during the workshop appear to have commercial drivers for further development. These include diagnostic biosensors, advanced delivery technologies for controlled release and targeted delivery of biological molecules, protein production technology, and the potential applications derived from omics knowledge in areas such as personalized medicine. Fields such as synthetic biology, which likely have future medical applications, are also expected to have valuable applications in areas such as bioenergy and food production (Lee et al., 2008; NRC, 2009e). Developments in