The White House is set to unveil its plans for biomanufacturing, with a focus on plastics, chemicals, fuels, foods, and other products that can be created using biological processes. The move comes in response to an executive order issued in September 2021 and is backed by over $1bn in funding from the Department of Defense.
The program aims to establish biomanufacturing and biotechnology goals, which will be released on Wednesday. Among the targets is the use of living organisms to generate at least 30% of chemicals and to replace over 90% of plastics within the next two decades.
The White House has stressed the importance of biomanufacturing in generating economic growth, with the potential for up to $4tn in annual US economic impact over the next two decades. The US hopes to increase its capacity in this field, as it currently lags behind Europe and China in the global biomanufacturing race.
The White House’s plan includes targets set by the Departments of Energy, Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services and the National Science Foundation. The US Department of Defense has also released its own strategy aimed at guiding a previously announced $1.2bn investment in domestic biomanufacturing infrastructure. The White House has emphasized that the targets are goals, not commitments, and will require collaboration with private companies and national laboratories.
“I love it when I see big, bold, barely feasible goals because then it tells you what you need to do to start creating the future you want,” said Arati Prabhakar, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology, which will lead implementation. The plan also has the potential to reduce dependence on fossil fuels significantly, she said.
“It’s sort of crazy when you think about it, we’re digging up dead dinosaur molecules to make plastic and other materials so integral to the world that we live in,” she said in an interview before announcing the goals at the Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Conference in Washington.