Photo of Joe Biden

Background Press Call on President Biden's Executive Order to Launch a National Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative

September 11, 2022

Via Teleconference

4:01 P.M. EDT

MODERATOR: Hi, everyone. And thanks for joining us on a Sunday. The purpose of today's call will be to preview the President's executive order, which he'll sign tomorrow, that will launch a biotechnology and biomanufacturing initiative.

As a reminder, today's call is on background, attributable to senior administration officials and will be embargoed until 5:00 a.m. Eastern tomorrow, Monday, September 12.

For your awareness, not for your reporting, the speakers on today's call are [senior administration official] and [senior administration official].

With that, I will pass it off to [senior administration official].

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you, [moderator]. And good afternoon, everyone.

We're excited today to share that, tomorrow, President Biden will sign an executive order to launch a national biotechnology and biomanufacturing initiative. The initiative will drive federal investments in areas that will define U.S. biotechnology leadership and our economic competitiveness in the coming decades. And this initiative will make the United States more prosperous and our planet more secure.

Let me just step back here and describe why the President is launching this initiative at this time.

So we know that the global industry is on the cusp of a revolution powered by biotechnology. Analyses and facts suggest that before the end of the decade, engineering biology holds the potential to be used in manufacturing industries that account for more than one third of global output. That's equivalent to almost $30 trillion in terms of value.

Living factories -- cells -- and biomass can be used to make almost anything that we use in our day-to-day lives, from medicines to fuels to plastics. And this allows the U.S. to leverage innovation -- this innovation -- to strengthen our economy and society.

On Wednesday, the White House will host a summit on the bioeconomy and biomanufacturing. We will announce new investments and resources across a wide range of agencies that will allow the United States to harness the full potential of biotechnology and biomanufacturing.

Let me give you just a highlight at a top level, and then I'll turn over to [senior administration official] of what the initiative will do.

The investments, programs, and partnerships in this initiative will advance research and development in engineering biology and biomanufacturing, expand and strengthen domestic biomanufacturing capacity and resilient supply chains. It will help bring bioproducts to market that will help support American farmers and reduce risk through biosecurity innovation, as well as enhance workforce training and education programs for the next generation of biotechnologists.

Now, beyond federal investments, the initiative takes on a series of actions to create more robust markets for bio-based products at home and globally to expand access to biotechnology and to translate research and development into vital products and services faster.

The initiative's impact will be far-reaching. Tomorrow, in Boston, the President will give remarks on the power of biotechnology and biomanufacturing to end cancer as we know it. But the power of biotechnology extends far beyond healthcare. It will enable us to reinvent America's supply chains, transitioning away from chemicals that rely on oil towards cleaner, safer, and more reliable alternatives that we make right here at home.

This transition will create jobs across all of America, and it will mean that we can keep prices for consumers low and supply chain strong.

So those are the top lines at the high level. Let me now turn it over to my colleague for more information on the executive order itself.

Over to you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks very much, [senior administration official], and thanks to all of you for joining us on a Sunday afternoon.

So just to make a few points in addition to those that Raj has made on the initiative and some of the key elements of it.

So first is just to note for all of you that this initiative really delivers early on the vision and action called for in the CHIPS and Science Act, which, as many of you know, calls on the administration to develop a strategy to realize the promise of biotechnology and biomanufacturing for the American economy and for American national security. And we're doing that just weeks after the passage of -- the President signed CHIPS and Science.

And then let me say a little bit about just some of the key elements of this initiative and the associated investments that [senior administration official] referenced earlier, and how they're going to drive advances in biotechnology and biomanufacturing.

So first is strengthening supply chains and lowering prices. You know, this is going to be through bio-based production of active pharmaceutical ingredients, biomanufacturing facilities that do not rely on foreign suppliers, and biomining of rare earth elements. Consumers will be able to access products made in America at lower prices, even in times of global supply chain disruptions.

Second, we're aiming to expand domestic biomanufacturing capacity so that more of what's invented in America is made in America. Biomanufacturing depends on local feedstocks, and so it will create real impact on communities throughout the country.

We're looking to facilitate more data sharing and data access to advance the development of biotechnology and the bioeconomy writ large. The executive order will also feature elements focused on reducing risk through biosafety and biosecurity innovation. It will have an element focused really squarely on creating jobs and growing the strength and diversity of the bioeconomy, including by supporting a diverse workforce and ensuring the benefits of these initiatives are distributed across the country.

Among other things, the initiative will expand training and education opportunities in community colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and other minority-serving institutions.

We're also looking to improve food security and drive agricultural innovation, including through new technologies that protect crops from disease, enhance seeds and fertilizers and foods made with cultured animal cells.

There's also, of course, as [senior administration official] alluded to earlier, the healthcare component of this aiming to help people live longer and healthier lives, including through the creation of personalized medicines, less invasive tools for disease detection, efficient vaccine and therapeutic manufacturing, and more effective and safer therapies.

And finally, this order aims to reduce the impact of climate change on America's families and workers, including through replacing foreign petrochemicals with locally produced bio-based chemicals, using biofuels to cut greenhouse gas emissions, developing soil microbes and crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

So just to summarize here, you know, I think the United States really has the best biotechnology innovators in the world. We really do lead in this area. But we risk falling behind, as we did in the semiconductor sector and then the advanced telecommunications sector, unless we translate biotechnology innovation into economic and societal benefits for all Americans.

Other countries, including and especially China, are aggressively investing in this sector, which poses risk to U.S. leadership and competitiveness unless we take the kinds of actions that we are with this executive order.

As many of you recall, in his very first month in office, President Biden promised to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with partners and allies on critical issues as well. And to that end, the EO also directs a robust international strategy for advancing our bioeconomy, working together with our partners and allies to realize the promise of biotechnology, but also ensuring that we do it in a way that's consistent with our principles and values and norms.

So, bottom line: This initiative is really a critical part of the President's agenda to ensure that the United States leads in this technology revolution, just as we have in other fields as well, and will do so in a way that's rooted in our core principles of equity and ethics and safety and security for the benefit of all Americans and our partners and allies as well.

Thanks very much. And back over you to you, [moderator].

MODERATOR: Thank you [senior administration officials].

Would you mind reminding folks how to actually question please?

(Operator provides instructions.)

Q: Hi. Taking the time today. Really appreciate it. I'm curious to know what kind of investments, financially or what other resources, might be being put behind this executive order. Is there a figure in mind? And how are you going to fund and support, you know, diverse workforce trainings and so forth? Thanks. Appreciate it.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm happy to start with that.

So, look, we definitely will have investments to announce that are going to address research and development into engineering biology and biomanufacturing, helping bringing bio-products to the market, support for American agriculture, and enhancing workforce training and education programs.

We don't have a figure for you today, but we are looking forward to sharing that with you later this week in conjunction with the biotechnology and manufacturing summit that [senior administration official] alluded to at the top of the call.

Over.

Q: Yeah, thanks for taking my question. My similar question to [senior administration official]: If you look at the CHIPS and Science, and you look at the semiconductor industry, it's about, I think, 1 or 1.5 percent of U.S. GDP compared to the bioeconomy, which is about 5 percent. But I think there was about fifty- -- $56 billion that went for semiconductor technology.

So I'm wondering if you think that the level of investment is going to be, you know, four or five times the amount that's gone into the semiconductor industry. Or can you give some indication in terms of the relative amount between the semiconductor industry investment and the bioeconomy investment?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: [Senior administration official], do you want take that one?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure. So I can start with that.

So, look, we will be able to announce some significant announcements later this week. But I do think it's important to keep in mind that we don't see this as just kind of a proportion -- right? -- of the bioeconomy figure overall, because what we were doing in the semiconductor space was really addressing a very particular challenge, which has to do with a level of subsidies that we saw in semiconductor manufacturing, in particular, in other countries. And so that was kind of how we keep to the particular investments, working with Congress, to be able to provide grants and also to provide tax credits in that space.

So we certainly see other countries making major investments in the bioeconomy as well, but I think it's important not to just look at the (inaudible) figure because that was dealing with a very particular problem -- a set of subsidies that really created a, you know, 20 to 30 percent cost differential for American companies to manufacture in the United States. And that's not quite the same in this space.

But we do think that there is important room for incentives for biomanufacturing, and so we'll have more to say about that later this week.

Q: Hi, thanks for doing this. I just had two quick questions. One, I mean, what details can you give us on the release of the EO itself? I mean, the timing. I may have missed that earlier on.

And then, can you tell us -- give us maybe a little more examples of what is -- I think you mentioned that, you know, the development of these technologies is still going on here in the U.S. and not so much the manufacturing. Was that the case with the COVID vaccines, or can you give us some other examples of where you're seeing the U.S. lose out, you know, in particular industries or on particular technologies?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: [Senior administration official], do you want to start with that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure. So the EO will -- the President has it on his agenda to sign it tomorrow. And that will launch the national biotechnology and biomanufacturing initiative. And he'll give some remarks around this as well at his speech in Boston tomorrow, on cancer, of course noting that biotech and biomanufacturing has a lot to do with healthcare, but, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, extends far beyond healthcare and other industries.

In terms of example areas, let me turn back to [senior administration official] on that. I may come in right after him, but why don't I turn back to you. That we change (inaudible) on the question -- second part of the question.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure. I mean, some of the products that I think we're talking about are bio-based chemicals, bio-based plastics, for example, for industrial processes.

You also see, you know, luxury materials too, or for textiles -- right? -- bio-based alternatives as well. So there's really a broad array of -- bio-based rubbers, for example, for tires, just to give you a set of examples and kind of the broad -- broad applicability of the kinds of products that we're talking about there.

The challenge has been we may kind of lead in the bioengineering and synthetic biology, but if a company, especially smaller company that doesn't have the ability to manufacture everything in house, it would have to go abroad unless we really expand the biomanufacturing base and infrastructure here in the United States.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, and you mentioned COVID as an example. Of course, that's one that is vivid and comes to our mind because it clearly demonstrates the vital role of both the innovation and the manufacturing, both in developing and producing biotech in diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines that have protected Americans and billions of people around the world.

But, you know, just to put a couple of more finer points as examples, [senior administration official] was mentioning, you know, there's a lot of innovation happening in jet fuels, for instance. You know, there's work being done by companies in this country to ensure that industrial emissions, including from gases and municipal solid waste, can be fed to bacteria to help create less carbon-intensive jet fuels.

Another example is in the agricultural industry. The production of bio-based chemicals, including natural nitrogen fertilizers, can be used for agricultural applications that are extracted from pig manure and then can -- that can be done with zero wastewater discharge or air emissions.

So these are the kinds of manufacturing areas that we want to be able to double down on and focus on with a range of policies, regulatory actions, strategies, plans, and investments.

MODERATOR: Thank you, [senior administration officials]. Again, this call is embargoed until tomorrow, Monday, September 12, at 5:00 a.m. Eastern. If you have any follow-up questions, please don't hesitate to reach out. Thanks again for joining us on a Sunday. I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend.

4:19 P.M. EDT

Joseph R. Biden, Background Press Call on President Biden's Executive Order to Launch a National Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/357828

Simple Search of Our Archives