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President Joe Biden will sign orders Monday to push more government dollars into the US biotechnology industry aimed at reducing China’s reliance on materials to generate clean energy, weave new fabrics and vaccinate the population against the COVID -19 pandemic.
The executive order will allow the federal government to provide funding to use microbes and other biologically-derived resources to make novel foods, fertilizers and seeds, as well as make mining operations more efficient, government officials said.
They gave no details on how much money would be available, where it would come from, or how it would be allocated. Further details are expected Wednesday at a White House summit on the subject.
The US federal government is already a source of funds for biotechnology research and development (R&D) through the National Institute of Health, the US Department of Agriculture, and other agencies. Total US funding for R&D has fallen as a percentage of gross domestic product since a peak in the 1950s, a trend Biden has promised to reverse.
Potential applications range from the biodiesel fuels made by Renewable Energy Group to the COVID vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech (PFE.N), (22UAy.DE) or the genetically modified seeds made by Corteva Inc (CTVA.N).
“Other countries, including and especially China, are investing aggressively in this sector, posing risks to US leadership and competitiveness,” said a government official who declined to be named and previewed Biden’s actions.
Biden will discuss the order in Boston Monday, as he talks about the “Cancer Moonshot,” an effort to boost research, create new treatments and reduce the death rate from that disease.
Bioproduction has been used to generate cancer treatments, including treatments derived from plants or using redesigned immune cells.
Biden will also be Dr. Renee Wegrzyn, a longtime science consultant and most recently employed by the biotech company Ginkgo Bioworks Holdings Inc, (DNA.N) as the first director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, a US government-run biomedical research group.
“Today we have many of the building blocks needed to make significant progress in cancer treatment, but we must work together to deliver on the promise,” said another government official.
Biden’s son Beau died of brain cancer in 2015 at age 46, something the president has said demonstrates his passion for the project.