HR 4373 would require the President, through the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), to implement the National Engineering Biology Research and Development Initiative in order to promote US national security, sustainability, and economic competitiveness and productivity. According to the bill, engineering biology involves applying engineering principles to biological systems in order to understand and design these systems. The Initiative would support research and development (R&D) in science and engineering, expand research from students and underserved populations, and accelerate commercialization of research.
These goals would be accomplished through:
- Providing funds for R&D;
- Developing standards for research databases;
- Promoting small business involvement in technological innovation;
- Increasing training in engineering biology;
- Quantifying the economic benefits of R&D; and
- Bridging the gap between research and private companies.
This Initiative would establish an Interagency Committee, comprising OSTP and representatives from at least eight governmental agencies, that would be in charge of coordinating interagency activities, developing goals for the program, creating a strategic plan and budget, and developing a national genomic sequencing strategy to ensure long-term competitiveness.
An Advisory Committee would also be established to assess both US scientific competitiveness on a global scale and the implementation of the strategic plan, and to generate a report of its findings. External reviewers from the National Academies would evaluate and report on the ethical, legal, environmental, safety, security, and societal issues. The Initiative would provide outreach to undergraduate and minority-serving institutions, support research, and integrate both expert and public opinion with regards to the ethical implications of the Initiative’s activities.
The activities carried out by individual agencies would be as follows:
- National Science Foundation: Award grants for research;
- Department of Commerce: Develop standard reference materials and provide access to facilities and technical expertise;
- Department of Energy: Provide access to facilities, and conduct research in synthetic biology, biofuels, and environmental remediation;
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration: Award grants and conduct research regarding Earth and space; and
- Environmental Protection Agency: Support research on the environmental impacts of engineering biology.
According to the bill, research into engineering biology will not only inform legislation surrounding the field, but it will also increase US competitiveness on the global scale.