The Department of Defense today released its Biomanufacturing Strategy, a document that will guide research efforts, industry partnerships, and relationships with allies in a rapidly developing technology field with significant implications for national security and economic competitiveness.
“The National Defense Strategy directs us to seed opportunities in biotechnology as part of our broader responsibility to ensure our enduring technological advantage, and the Department of Defense Biomanufacturing Strategy will help guide our efforts in this critical technology field,” said Heidi Shyu, Under Secretary of Defense for Science and Engineering. “The strategy’s principles will define the path we must take to not just develop advanced technologies, but turn them into advanced capabilities that meet national security needs.”
Biomanufacturing is the use of biological mechanisms in the manufacturing process. Work is rapidly advancing that would introduce biomanufacturing processes for production of fuels, chemicals, and even construction materials. The field also has the potential to enable creation of biologically-based environmental sensors, wearable technology, and materials with wholly novel properties.
The DoD Biomanufacturing Strategy is based on three principles that will guide efforts:
- Establishing transition partners for early-stage innovations. The strategy directs that “establishing DoD customers for biomanufactured capabilities will guide DoD technology investments,” using processes such as the formal requirements development process to ensure that early-stage science is aimed at advancing capabilities that help operational commanders achieve their missions.
- Developing biomanufacturing through innovations in practice and application. This principle directs the Department to “develop biomanufacturing at home and with allies and partners to create a self-sustaining domestic biomanufacturing ecosystem,” not only meeting defense needs but ensuring continued U.S. competitiveness in the field.
- Mapping the biomanufacturing ecosystem and tracking metrics that support future DoD biomanufacturing efforts. Because the biomanufacturing ecosystem is relatively new, it is essential to assess the current ecosystem and track changes as it develops, which will provide knowledge that will help prioritize future investments and mitigate implementation risk.
The strategy is informed by past DoD efforts, as well as language in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023, and the Executive Order on Advancing Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Innovation for a Sustainable, Safe, and Secure American Bioeconomy issued by President Biden last year. As part of implementing the president’s order, the Department last year announced $1.2 billion in new biomanufacturing investments, funding efforts to develop mission-critical materials domestically without relying on fragile supply chains; develop materials with novel properties to enhance systems ranging from hypersonics to submarines; and greatly reduce logistical and resupply timelines.
In support of the strategy, the Department’s Defense Production Act Investments (DPAI) Office, through the Executive Agent’s office at the Air Force Research Lab, has published an open Request for Information. The RFI seeks input from industry on biomanufactured products and process capabilities that could help address defense needs. Specifically, DPAI seeks input on capabilities whose maturation may be addressed by investment under Title III authorities of the Defense Production Act. The RFI is available through sam.gov at https://sam.gov/opp/8fec24f77b6046c9ae28dc99b2417e42/view.