The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering has welcomed the Biden Administration’s announcement of Executive Order (EO) “Advancing Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Innovation for a Sustainable, Safe, and Secure American Bioeconomy.” This EO will bolster efforts by the Department of Defense (DoD) and other Federal agencies to ensure U.S. economic and national security by leveraging biotechnology to secure, strengthen, and diversify the United States’ domestic manufacturing supply chains of critical goods, products, and services.
“I am excited at the prospect of what this Executive Order will empower us to accomplish,” said Ms. Heidi Shyu, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. “The Department recognizes biotechnology as a Critical Technology Area that will change the way the DoD develops new capabilities, conducts missions, and adapts to major global changes. This Executive Order will advance and synchronize our efforts—across the DoD and across the Federal Government—to strategically leverage biotechnology so that our Nation maintains its economic, military, and technological advantage.”
On September 14, the DoD announced $1.2 billion in new investments in biomanufacturing. Emerging biomanufacturing capabilities will help the DoD address logistical challenges across multiple DoD mission areas. Biotechnology will enable the Department to source 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 by providing point-of-need manufacturing for building materials and energy production.
Over the next five years, the DoD will invest $1 billion in bioindustrial domestic manufacturing infrastructure to catalyze the establishment of a domestic bioindustrial manufacturing base accessible to U.S. innovators. This support will incentivize private- and public-sector partners to expand manufacturing capacity for products important to both commercial and defense supply chains, such as critical chemicals. An additional $200 million will support enhancements to biosecurity and cybersecurity postures at these facilities.
In recognition of biotechnology’s benefits, the DoD aims to accelerate biotechnology towards prototyping, operational demonstration, and production at a faster rate. The Department will pursue this acceleration by:
- Connecting and delivering biotechnology solutions to mission needs;
- Developing a rapid prototyping pipeline with a common foundation that enables shared data, standard workflows, and automated capacity;
- Leading in bioethics, biosafety, and biosecurity;
- Fostering a diverse, multi-disciplinary workforce for the future; and
- Partnering effectively with industrial, academic, and international partners.
Critical to helping advance biotechnology are the DoD’s Manufacturing Innovation Institutes (MIIs). In particular, BioFabUSA and the BioIndustrial Manufacturing & Design Ecosystem (BioMADE) institutes are existing national resources executing a coordinated public-private partnership approach to advancing biotechnology. BioFabUSA was established in December 2016 by the Office of the Secretary of Defense Manufacturing Technology Program with the goal of making practical the scalable, consistent, and cost-effective manufacturing of cells, tissues, and organs. In October 2020, BioMADE was launched as the ninth DoD MII and tasked with enabling domestic bioindustrial manufacturing at all scales, developing technologies to enhance U.S. bioindustrial competitiveness, and de-risking investment in relevant infrastructure. Together, the institutes represent a $167.5 million initial Federal investment matched by more than $401.5 million in funds from industry, academia, and state governments.
The EO makes clear the importance of the Department’s current bioindustrial investments with partners like BioMADE and BioFabUSA, and supports the DoD’s planned activities collaborating with the public and private sector to grow the domestic, flexible industrial biomanufacturing capacity. This EO and subsequent actions by the DoD and its interagency partners will lead to more flexible biomanufacturing facilities for manufacturers of all sizes; an increase in pilot- and industrial-scale capacity to support diverse materials production; more resilient supply chains; enhanced partnerships with Federal, industry, and international partners; and a more robust domestic biotechnology workforce.