The Obama Administration released last week the National Bioeconomy Blueprint. The report outlines steps that federal agencies will take to drive the bioeconomy—economic activity powered by research and innovation in the biosciences—and details ongoing efforts across the federal government to realize this goal. Given the importance of biotechnology to the pharmaceutical industry, does the plan do enough?
The report recognizes the importance of biotechnology not only in healthcare but in other sectors. “The bioeconomy emerged as an Administration priority because of its tremendous potential for growth and job creation as well as the many other societal benefits it offers,” says the report.”A more robust bioeconomy can enable Americans to live longer and healthier lives, develop new sources of bioenergy, address key environmental challenges, transform manufacturing processes, and increase the productivity and scope of the agricultural sector while generating new industries and occupational opportunities.”
The Bioeconomy Blueprint outlines five strategic imperatives: support R&D investments; facilitate the transition of bioinventions from research laboratories to market, including an increased focus on translational and regulatory sciences; reduce barriers to increase the speed of regulatory processes; update training programs and align academic institution incentives with student training for national workforce needs; and identify and support opportunities for the development of public–private partnerships and precompetitive collaborations.
Key industry organizations, such as The Biotechnology Industry Organization have issued its support for the blueprint. But one item seems to missing in the area of biopharmaceuticals and healthcare. Although the report recognizes the importance of biomanufacturing in areas such as clean fuels and renewable energy, it fails to recognize and provide to provide incentives to retain and develop biomanufacturing for biopharmaceuticals.
Innovation as a means of economic growth is a laudable goal, but federal policy should also help to stimulate and retain biomanufacturing activity in existing sectors, such as biopharmaceuticals and pharmaceuticals. The erosion of the US domestic pharmaceutical manufacturing base in the single largest national market in the world, namely the US, has been a cause for concern for some time and should be part of any viable plan for biomedical innovation. In looking at any plan, it is important that fundamentals, such as retention of a domestic manufacturing based, be considered.