Representative Subtheme Challenge:

CCA-08: Biosecurity in the Bioeconomy

Imagine a bioengineered community garden where plants not only thrive but also serve as sentinels for biosecurity. These specially designed flora, equipped with biotechnological features, signal the presence of environmental toxins or invasive species, ensuring the safety of the local ecosystem. This integration of biosecurity into urban green spaces exemplifies proactive environmental protection, where bioengineered products are responsibly developed and monitored for ecological impact. Such innovations, emerging from collaborative research and sustained investment, symbolize a bioeconomy where the creation and release of biotechnologies are closely aligned with safeguarding environmental and public health.

As the bioeconomy grows, a significant challenge arises in ensuring that processes and products are safe and secure. Biosafety and biosecurity measures should be incorporated from the ideation stage through the entire innovation lifecycle. This includes preventing accidents that could harm workers or the public, understanding the environmental and health impacts of engineered bioproducts, and safeguarding against the accidental release or theft of sensitive materials and data. A key goal is to protect ecosystems, food supplies, and public health from harmful bioproducts. Multiple reports exist on such topics that can serve as starting points for future discussion and action.

CASA-Bio stakeholders representing government, industry, and non-profit sectors, identified areas of mutual interest where concerted effort among them may lead more quickly to the realization of the envisioned future. These are a few of their ideas. Research is crucial for both understanding and preemptively addressing potential biosecurity risks in the bioeconomy. Key needs include developing empirical data on the effectiveness of current and intended biosafety practices, designing microbes and processes with built-in biosecurity features (such as self-reporting or surveillance sensors), and establishing best practices for secure data and technology sharing. Additionally, there is a need to improve capacity to detect and mitigate current and emerging pathogens or pests with potential to cause disease in humans, animals, and plants. We emphasize that this list is not comprehensive; we need you to help us think deeper within this subtheme!

As a member of the R&D community, you too are a CASA-Bio stakeholder, and providing your insight on R&D projects that undergird this sub-theme and lead to solutions is critical. Your ideas will matter! Your individual project ideas and those developed as part of the collaborative Town Hall process will be combined to produce an aggregate view. This view will help us understand not only the interests of the R&D community, but also what they are willing to do to advance the bioeconomy. Topics among the R&D project ideas we receive will help government, industry, and non-profit stakeholders see the potential of the US R&D community to address critical future needs and help define topics for future exploration through workshops and roadmapping.

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CASA-Bio is based upon work supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation under Contract No. 49100423P0058. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. National Science Foundation.
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