The biotechnology sector has been eagerly awaiting the announcement of a national bioeconomy plan by the Obama administration that is expected to be released today. The White House blueprint intends to spur development of renewable resources such as crops and biofuels as well as biological manufacturing processes.
Since President Obama’s announcement last September that a bioeconomy blueprint was in development, The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has sought and received public commentary regarding potential blueprint contents and challenges from 135 individuals and organizations.
The compiled blueprint discusses improvements to education and work force training, increased collaboration among the private and public sectors, commercialization of discoveries through corporate involvement with academia, and awarding of prizes for innovation to support research and development. The report also outlines a strategy to provide faster and more predictable regulation, which may help mediate stringent and opaque F.D.A. regulations that hinder potential investments, while keeping unsafe products off the market.
According to an article by Andrew Pollack of the New York Times, a significant portion of the report details programs are already being implemented. It is therefore unclear whether the blueprint will insight any changes, which builds anticipation for potential game-changers in the administrative blueprint announcement, especially when global competition in biotechnology is exceedingly palpable.
On the home turf , the Canadian biotech sector was pleased to see that the recent 2012 Canadian federal budget maintained the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) program largely intact, continuing to support more than basic labour costs (which is crucial is crucial for capital- intensive biotechnology companies using state of the art equipment), and keeping the enhanced investment tax credit (ITC) refundability rate at 35 percent to support growth of small- and medium-sized CCPCs.
The release of the bioeconomy blueprint could not have come at a better time as biotech industry leaders are preparing to gather for the BIO 9th annual World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing, on April 29- May 2 in Orlando, FL., to exhibit, discuss and invest in current technological trends and advancements with the aim of delivering innovative technological solutions to the global market.
In a statement released on October 13 2011, Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) President and CEO Jim Greenwood applauded president Obama’s decision to focus efforts in the biotechnology sector, “the National Bioeconomy Blueprint can leverage investments across the country in biotechnology research and development to create jobs and spur biological innovation on a grand scale.”
But not everyone agrees. Jim Thomas of the ETC Group, believes that a biomass economy threatens the ecosystem and paves the way for increased land grabs, hunger, and control of land and food production by large agri-business. In his article, “Beware the Biomass Economy,” Thomas warns that “the production of liquid fuels (so-called Biofuels or agrofuels) from biomass is the poster child of the new bio-based economy and also the most controversial part. World Bank figures reveal that up to 75% of the global rise in food prices in 2008 that led to massive hunger and unrest worldwide was due to the biofuels policies of the US and Europe that were directing corn, soy and other foodstuffs towards fuel production.”
With these considerations in mind, it is a crucial time for the global biotechnology industry, including biotechnology companies, government administration and academia, to take charge of leveraging potential profitability towards research and development with an increased focus on sustainability.
Read more about SR&ED in the biotechnology sector.