Representative Subtheme Challenge:

CCA-02: Foundational Discovery Driving the Bioeconomy

Imagine if, a few years from now, your morning routine includes a breakfast with superfoods, engineered through advanced protein manufacturing, tailored to your health needs. The packaging, a product of groundbreaking materials research, is completely biodegradable, disintegrating harmlessly within days. These innovations stem from a world where foundational discoveries that support the bioeconomy have been actualized - a world where interdisciplinary teams, merging AI, living systems, and biotechnology, have revolutionized how we produce and consume, making sustainability and personalized healthy living not just ideals, but everyday realities.

Foundational discovery in science and engineering plays a critical role in driving the bioeconomy through advances in both structured innovation and serendipitous discoveries. Success stories–like DeepMind’s AlphaFold, which integrated protein structure, DNA sequencing, and AI for predicting protein structures, or CRISPR, which allows for specific modification of DNA to treat disease –highlight the profound impact and potential of foundational sciences to drive innovation. There are substantial challenges that cut across many bioeconomy sectors, especially in manufacturing and workforce development. Continued investment in basic science and engineering is vital to prevent stagnation in the evolution of next-generation bioeconomy solutions.

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. The focus is on fostering interdisciplinary R&D and developing advanced discovery tools, including: high-throughput sequence and function analysis platforms; novel biomolecules, metabolic pathways and circuits, innovative cellular and cell-free systems, and much more. The EBRC Technical Roadmaps offer initial ideas, outlining areas ripe for exploration and growth in foundational research. Also, the opportunity exists for seeding ideas from established industry back into the foundational discovery pipeline as an important catalyst for continued growth of the bioeconomy. 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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