Washington (April 27, 2021) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) today reintroduced the Bioeconomy Research and Development Act of 2021.  This legislation would strengthen America’s bioeconomy by establishing an initiative to advance research and development in engineering biology, advancing biomanufacturing, developing the future bioeconomy workforce, and supporting research in ethical, legal, environmental, safety, security, and societal issues. The legislation would also establish a committee to coordinate research in engineering biology across federal agencies.
“Biotechnology and life sciences innovation drives our bioeconomy,” said Senator Markey. “It is critical that the United States remain a leader in engineering biology research and innovation—particularly as other countries accelerate their bioeconomy investments—and that we continue to support the hundreds of thousands of workers in the health, energy, agriculture, and manufacturing sectors that contribute to this field. This bill will ensure that we remain a global bioeconomy leader and enable us to best coordinate bioengineering research.”
“Investing in engineering biology research is critical for our country now and for our future,” said Senator Gillibrand. “In addition to helping scientists develop a vaccine to protect Americans from the deadly coronavirus, the importance of engineering biology research touches everything from our food, to our environment, to our health care. Strengthening and coordinating our nation’s research initiatives will not only make us safer, it will bolster our economy and put the United States at the forefront of global research leadership. I’m proud to lead this bipartisan bill in the Senate.” 
“Cutting-edge innovation, technology, and discovery are all driving forces of America’s economic prosperity,” said Senator Rubio. “As we’ve seen throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, investing in engineering biology research is critical for our health and economic stability. I am proud to join my colleagues in reintroducing this legislation to strengthen both our economy and our research capability.”
“It’s important that we act now to strengthen America’s bioeconomy to reinforce our position as the global leader in this field. Increasing access to STEM opportunities is vital for the future of our country and will help expand the research and development capabilities that move our country forward. I’m proud to join my colleagues in reintroducing this legislation that will help advance our bioeconomy and workforce,” said Senator Capito.
A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.
Engineering biology research is commonly known to help with the development of new vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine. However, engineering biology is also used to develop nutritious, locally grown specialty crops that are resilient to climate change; to make food safer with technologies that detect harmful microorganisms and fight antimicrobial resistance; to help wounded service members regain quality of life with advanced prosthetics, burn treatments, and regenerative therapeutics; to develop low-cost lifesaving drugs and early detection of cancer; and to clean the environment by creating non-polluting batteries, preserved biodiversity, and microbes that can chew through persistent toxic chemicals.
The bipartisan Bioeconomy Research and Development Act of 2021 would establish an initiative through the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to strengthen and broaden the country’s research capacities. Additionally, while federal agencies — such as NSF, NIST, DoE, DoD, NASA, USDA, NIH, FDA, and EPA — are all independently investing in engineering biology research, the legislation would coordinate these efforts.
Specifically, the Bioeconomy Research and Development Act of 2021 would:
  • Establish an Initiative through OSTP to advance research and development, advance biomanufacturing, develop the future bioeconomy workforce, and support research in ethical, legal, environmental, safety, security, and societal issues;
  • Direct the National Academies to review ethical, legal, environmental, safety, security, and societal issues related to engineering biology; and
  • Direct OSTP to lead an interagency coordination committee and define roles of participating agencies.
Support for the Bioeconomy Research and Development Act of 2021:
“The American Society for Microbiology applauds introduction of the Bioeconomy Research and Development Act,” said Stefano Bertuzzi, CEO, American Society for Microbiology. “This bipartisan legislation speaks to the need for federal government coordination and public-private partnerships, with special attention on engaging a diverse workforce for the future and assessing ethical, legal, environmental, safety and security issues. Microbiology is at the heart of many of these issues as part of the diverse scientific ecosystem tackling some of our most daunting societal challenges. Passing this bill will positively impact many industries of the future global economy.”
“ASME applauds the renewed focus on Bioengineering supported in this legislation. As we have seen over the past year thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, federal government support of technologies at the nexus of healthcare and manufacturing are what will set the U.S. apart as a global leader,” said Tom Costabile, CEO and Executive Director, American Society of Mechanical Engineering. “With over 5000 members working to advance our bioengineering capacities and make healthcare more effective and affordable, ASME looks forward to working with you in supporting and advancing this legislation and what it represents for the American people.”
“Its time to build back better with biology. With this legislation, the US bioeconomy will be poised to become a global biomanufacturing hub for the sustainable production of food, materials, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and consumer goods,” said John Cumbers, Founder of SynBioBeta.
The legislation is endorsed by American Society for Microbiology, American Society of Mechanical Engineering, Biotechnology Innovation Organization, and SynBioBeta.