Global Agenda Council on Biotechnology 2012-2013
During the past decade, research combining chemistry and biology has driven valuable discoveries for human health, energy and agriculture. The application of science and technology to living organisms, known as biotechnology, has allowed numerous inventions: in medicine (red biotech), new vaccines and drugs have been created to combat disease; in agriculture (green biotech), genetically modified seeds have been created to improve crop yields, increase resource efficiency and boost health and nutrition; in industry (white biotech), fuels, materials and chemicals have been produced from converted bio-mass. At the same time, new methods have been developed to utilize terrains previously unsuited for human use, such as deserts and ocean surfaces.
However, after thriving for some years, the companies using these technologies are feeling the need to demonstrate that this revolution is improving their success rate for product discovery and making a good return on investment (ROI). Some areas in which biotechnology would be extremely beneficial for public health and environmental sustainability do not yet offer sufficient ROI for companies to take the risk to invest in research and development (R&D). Moreover, negative public perception surrounding the safety and sustainability of biotechnology tools has also been a great obstacle to investment in new biotechnologies.
With the potential to spur job creation and generate billions of dollars in economic activity, biotechnology provides a promise of growth and innovation for countries around the world. However, researchers must enhance international collaboration to devise methodologies that facilitate the translation of new findings into practical applications, as well as to develop ways to manage public opinion.
- The United States spent US$ 22 billion (in purchasing power parity terms) on biotechnology R&D, about 7.6% of its total Business Enterprise R&D (BERD). This accounts for 66% of the total biotechnology R&D expenditure by firms in the 25 countries for which data are available.
- The share of biotechnology in public R&D expenditure is highest in Korea (at 20.4%), followed by Germany (18.3%) and Spain (13.3%). The average for the reporting countries is 7.6%.
- Approximately 66% of all estimated biotechnology R&D expenditure is for health applications, followed by 13% for industrial processing.
“Biotechnology is playing an increasingly important role in the healthcare, food and nutrition, agriculture, chemicals, energy and materials industries. It is expected that the current fossil oil-based chemicals industry will be adopting more and more bio-based processes for the sustainable production of chemicals, fuels and materials from renewable non-food biomass and even from carbon dioxide. Indeed, biotechnology is at the centre of attention towards establishing a healthy and sustainable world.”
Lee Sang Yup, Distinguished Professor, Director and Dean, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)
“Many of the key issues of current human society, from food shortages to energy demand, from human health to waste remediation, can be addressed in an efficient and inexpensive way using biological systems evolved naturally over hundreds of millions of years. The role of biotechnology is to harness the power of those systems scientifically to ensure they are used safely for the benefit of the entire human race.”
Andrey Zarur, Managing General Partner, Kodiak Venture Partners
Lee, Sang Yup. “Systems Metabolic Engineering, Research in Computational Molecular Biology”
Mendel in the Kitchen: A Scientist's View of Genetically Modified Food
Chen, Guo-Qiang. A Polyhydroxyalkanoates Based Bio- and Materials Industry
5th Biofuels International Conference
21-22 November 2012
3B Platform in China: Biorefineries, Biotechnology and Bioenergy
BIO Asia International Conference
29-30 January 2013
BIOVISION World Life Sciences Forum
24-26 March 2013
During the 2012-2014 term, the Global Agenda Council on Biotechnology aims to:
- Ascertain the key global challenges that biotechnology can address, identify work-streams already under way and propose new ways to leverage biotechnology
- Identify the latest developments in biotechnology and compile a top 10 list of emerging biotechnologies
- Form specialized groups on key biotechnologies to identify hurdles and develop strategies for commercialization
- Hold a discussion on the different colours (“rainbow”) of biotechnology to create a common language across the sector
- Discuss the potential unintended consequences of biotechnology (e.g. artificial organisms and bioterrorism); also discuss the public and industrial perception of specific biotechnologies and suggest strategies to address them
- Explore the public sector’s role in biotechnology, including management of public perception, public-private partnerships and regional differences
The Council’s relevant projects include the “3B Platform”: biorefineries, biotechnology and bioenergy. This platform is a partnership between the Forum, the China Petroleum and Chemicals Industry Federation and the World Council on Industrial Biotechnology with the aim to facilitate innovation related to biorefineries in China. A similar collaborative platform is being developed in India while in-depth studies and meetings have been conducted in North America and Brazil. Over the past two years, the platform has explored issues such as sustainability and water, feedstock, technology, aviation and policy.
Another key project is on energy harnessing. The global energy landscape is changing, marked by a constantly growing demand for energy and an increasing importance of renewable sources. Innovative solutions related to key Energy Harnessing themes, such as energy storage, renewable energy sources and resource management techniques, will be required over the next decade. The World Economic Forum is bringing together a multistakeholder group that will address relevant challenges and opportunities to produce a white paper with recommendations.
Research Analyst: Rigas Hadzilacos, Global Agenda Councils, firstname.lastname@example.org
Council Manager: Tatiana Babakina, Community Manager, Chemicals Industry, Tatiana.Babakina@weforum.org
Forum Lead: Andrew Hagan, Director, Head of Chemicals Industry, email@example.com