Committee on Safeguarding the Bioeconomy:
Finding Strategies for Understanding, Evaluating, and Protecting
the Bioeconomy While Sustaining Innovation and Growth
Board on Life Sciences
Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources
Division on Earth and Life Studies
Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy
Policy and Global Affairs
Board on Health Sciences Policy
Health and Medicine Division
Forum on Cyber Resilience
Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences
A Consensus Study Report of
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This activity was supported by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence under Award Number WC133R17CQ0031. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-49567-7
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-49567-9
Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.17226/25525
Library of Congress Control Number: 2020930894
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Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Safeguarding the Bioeconomy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25525.
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COMMITTEE ON SAFEGUARDING THE BIOECONOMY: FINDING STRATEGIES FOR UNDERSTANDING, EVALUATING, AND PROTECTING THE BIOECONOMY WHILE SUSTAINING INNOVATION AND GROWTH
THOMAS M. CONNELLY, JR., Chair, American Chemical Society, Washington, DC
STEVEN M. BELLOVIN, Columbia University, New York, New York
PATRICK M. BOYLE, Ginkgo Bioworks Inc., Boston, Massachusetts
KATHERINE CHARLET, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC
CAROL CORRADO, The Conference Board, New York, New York
J. BRADLEY DICKERSON, Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico
DIANE DIEULIIS, National Defense University, Washington, DC
GERALD EPSTEIN, National Defense University, Washington, DC
STEVEN L. EVANS, Dow Agro Science (retired), Indianapolis, Indiana
GEORGE B. FRISVOLD, University of Arizona, Tucson
JEFFREY L. FURMAN, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts
LINDA KAHL, SciScript Communications, Walnut Creek, California
ISAAC S. KOHANE, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
KELVIN H. LEE, University of Delaware, Newark
MARY E. MAXON, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California
MAUREEN McCANN, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
PIERS D. MILLETT, iGEM, Boston, Massachusetts
ANDREA HODGSON, Study Director, Board on Life Sciences
FRANCES SHARPLES, Board Director, Board on Life Sciences
KATHERINE BOWMAN, Senior Program Officer, Board on Life Sciences
STEVEN M. MOSS, Associate Program Officer, Board on Life Sciences
KOSSANA YOUNG, Senior Program Assistant, Board on Life Sciences
KARA LANEY, Senior Program Officer, Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources
GAIL COHEN, Board Director, Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy
STEVEN KENDALL, Program Officer, Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy
SCOTT WOLLEK, Senior Program Officer, Board on Health Sciences Policy
LYNETTE MILLETT, Director, Forum on Cyber Resilience
RONA BRIERE, Editor
ALISA DECATUR, Editorial Assistant
This Consensus Study Report was greatly enhanced by discussions with participants at the committee’s meetings and workshops as part of this study (a full list of participants is available in Appendix B). The committee would particularly like to acknowledge the efforts of those who contributed to its information-gathering efforts through personal discussions, informal requests for information, or some other mechanism: Laura Haas, University of Massachusetts Amherst; Tony Sager, Center for Internet Security; and Fred Schneider, Cornell University.
This Consensus Study Report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in making each published report as sound as possible and to ensure that it meets the institutional standards for quality, objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.
The committee thanks the following individuals for their review of this report:
Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations of this report, nor did they see the final draft before its release. The review of this report was overseen by MICHAEL R. LADISCH, Purdue University, and PETER CARR, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with the standards of the National Academies and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content rests entirely with the authoring committee and the National Academies.
The U.S. bioeconomy comprises exciting science- and technology-driven economic activity that is expanding and advancing on many fronts. Americans’ everyday lives benefit from the U.S. bioeconomy in terms of the food they eat; the health care they receive; the quality of their environment; and the fuels, materials, and products they consume, and the bioeconomy is poised to make even larger contributions in all of these sectors and possibly some additional areas as well. U.S. science and technology are the source of all of these benefits. Fueled by public and private investment, the nation has maintained a considerable technological lead in the bioeconomy domain, and for an extended period of time.
At the same time, the powerful technologies encompassed by the bioeconomy can also lead to national security and economic vulnerabilities. For example, biotechnology can be misused to create virulent pathogens that can target our food supply (crops and animals) or even the human population. Engineering biology can be used to eliminate invasive species, yet such actions can have unintended environmental consequences. Genomic technology can be used to design disease therapies that are tailored to an individual, yet this same technology can be used to identify genetic vulnerabilities in a population or subpopulation. Large genetic databases allow people’s ancestry to be revealed and crimes to be solved, but such data can also be misused. And while genetic and other large datasets contribute to medical progress, they also represent potential security and privacy concerns.
During the past decade, moreover, competition in the global bioeconomy has intensified. Although economic competition has always been part of global commerce, global competition has in some respects moved beyond the usual economic rivalry among nations. Outright theft of intellectual property and know-how has occurred in some cases. Cross-border cyber intrusion has led to exfiltration of proprietary information and data from U.S. organizations by individuals and entities in other countries. More subtle loss of competitiveness can also occur. As a result of some countries’ policies, an asymmetry exists in the way information is shared, whereby the ability of U.S.-based researchers to access and use such information is denied. While one response is retaliation with similar policies, this response would be counter to the system that gave rise to the global bioeconomy and the broader scientific enterprise. The entire world has benefited from the exchange of scientific information built on collaborative efforts of scientists around the world.
These security and economic concerns provided the impetus for the study documented in this report, which was requested by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. To carry out the study, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convened the Committee on Safeguarding the Bioeconomy: Finding Strategies for Understanding, Evaluating, and Protecting the Bioeconomy While Sustaining Innovation and Growth. Convened in December 2018, the 17-member committee was charged with investigating strategies for understanding, evaluating, and protecting the bioeconomy while sustaining innovation and growth. Given the breadth of this task, the committee’s membership represents a broad range of expertise, including life sciences, engineering, computer science, economics, law, strategic planning, and national security. The committee members have current or past experience in academia, federal agencies, national laboratories, nongovernmental organizations, and industry (large and entrepreneurial companies), and have worked in many bioeconomy sectors, including human health, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, and industrial bioscience.
The committee met four times in face-to-face meetings between January and June 2019. Three of these meetings included open workshop sessions. An additional three webinars were held to which the public was also invited. During these meetings and webinars, the committee heard from a total of 36 speakers (see Appendix B) on every facet of the U.S. bioeconomy. In addition, the committee members met privately in numerous conference calls, both as a full committee and in small groups.
The work of this committee was ably assisted by the essential support of the staff of the National Academies. Given the breadth of our task, significant contributions were made by staff from the Board on Life Sciences; the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources; the Board
on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy; the Board on Health Sciences Policy; and the Forum on Cyber Resilience. This study could not have been completed without their outstanding efforts. The committee especially wishes to acknowledge the guidance and leadership of study director Andrea Hodgson.
The committee’s task was daunting in scope. As noted above, it was charged with developing strategies for understanding and evaluating the U.S. bioeconomy, as well as recommending strategies for protecting the bioeconomy while sustaining innovation and growth. Central to our work were the somewhat opposed notions of safeguarding and growth, of security and openness. Science and innovation thrive when ideas, information, products, services, and data are freely exchanged. The United States has an open and welcoming culture. As a nation, it is open by intent and by preference, and it has benefited enormously from this openness. In all aspects of the committee’s deliberations, as it strove for consensus in its recommendations, the need to address security concerns while preserving the benefits of openness was a primary consideration. The committee recognizes that international collaborations are essential to the continued success of the U.S. bioeconomy.
While the choices are not always easy, prudent decisions can be made. The committee does believe in the nation’s ability both to safeguard the bioeconomy and to further its growth. In our view, the recommendations presented in this report can serve as important steps toward fully realizing the promise and potential of the U.S. bioeconomy.
Thomas M. Connelly, Jr., Chair
Committee on Safeguarding the Bioeconomy: Finding Strategies for Understanding, Evaluating, and Protecting the Bioeconomy While Sustaining Innovation and Growth
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