This week, the White House published a report laying out its vision, thematic framework and goals for biotechnology and biomanufacturing R&D in the US. In particular, the five themes laid out to deliver improvements in human health provide some clear 5-year and 20-year targets for research, industry and government collaboration.
Policy consideration of biotech R&D
We are at a key moment in terms of policy consideration of biotech R&D and application to societal challenges. The overarching perspective of this report is a result of President Biden’s Executive Order last September instructing federal departments and agencies to assess the potential for biotech and biomanufacturing. Taking this joined-up, collaborative approach is the correct way to approach an industry with enormous potential to drive growth across the economy and to tackle some of society’s most pressing challenges.
Statement of leadership from the US
It is a clear statement of leadership from the US, and the Executive Order sets a standard for other nations aiming for leadership status in the emergent bioeconomy.
In this context, it is worth noting recent developments within the United Kingdom to advance this agenda and best champion the interests of its biotech sector. It has been a busy year so far in terms of public policy and government restructure. In the past month alone we have seen the creation of a dedicated Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) and a Budget Statement with measures to encourage R&D intensive small and medium sized enterprises, and also to “unlock” defined contribution (DC) pension funds to support investment into the UK’s innovative firms. Published a week before that Budget, the Government’s Science and Innovation Framework rightly identifies engineering biology as one of the five critical technologies for the UK prosperity and security.
Key challenges for the UK maintaining its global leadership position in biotech
At the same time, the report by Sir Patrick Vallance has outlined interim recommendations to improve UK regulatory systems to remove bottlenecks and unlock innovation in diagnostics, drugs and medical technologies. One of the most interesting suggestions here was that organisations like MHRA and NICE develop a more collaborative approach towards regulation and approval of products with international partner organisations such as the FDA or the EMA – which could free up valuable resource to focus on supporting innovation in these areas.
Outside of Government, the report by Lord Hague and Sir Tony Blair, ‘A New National Purpose’, did well to identify both the key challenges for the UK maintaining its global leadership position in biotech – and put forward policy interventions to answer these including on unlocking investment, on artificial intelligence and the importance of building high-value data sets that can be competitive assets for sectors including biomedical.
It’s a vibrant time for public policy announcements in support of biotech, the ambition is great and bold, and as ever realisation of an opportunity of this scale will be dependent upon consistency of approach and priority over the next 5, 10 and 20 years to unlock benefits to an ambitious timeframe. We look forward of being part of discussions with colleagues internationally and across different fields.