Biden looks to beef up US biomanufacturing amid pressure from China

The Biden Administration, after setting its sights on America’s pharmaceutical supply chains last winter, is telegraphing its next move to restore the United States' drugmaking prowess.

President Joe Biden penned an executive order Monday to boost biotechnology and biomanufacturing across a range of areas in the U.S. 

To help the U.S. biotech sector reach its full potential, the U.S. needs to funnel cash toward development of genetic engineering tech, use approaches like artificial intelligence to “unlock the power of biological data,” and “scale-up production,” whilst simultaneously breaking down obstacles to commercialization so that innovative products can hit the market faster, Biden said in a White House release.

To further those aims, the Biden Administration plans to plug federal investments into biotech and biomanufacturing R&D. The Administration is also angling to expand domestic biomanufacturing production capacity. At the same time, the Administration will aim to pilot and prototype bio projects to “accelerate the translation of basic research results into practice,” the President added.

The White House has yet to lay out specific funding targets for the project. Wednesday, the White House will host a summit on the initiative where it will announce “a wide range of new investments and resources that will allow the United States to harness the full potential of biotechnology and biomanufacturing,” the White House said in a fact sheet.

The bio beef-up appears to be a reaction—in part—to competition from China, which boasts a booming biotech business of its own.

“Other countries, including and especially China, are aggressively investing in this sector,” a White House official told Reuters over the weekend.

While the U.S. has some of the best biotech innovators, “we risk falling behind,” another official added during a background call Sunday, as quoted by Stars and Stripes.

What’s more, the order arrives amid a grim stretch for the biotech industry, which was smashing financing and public offering records as recently as 2021. Despite that boom, venture capital investments in U.S. biotech outfits plunged 46% during 2022’s first quarter versus the same period in 2021, GlobalData reports. The analytics firm blamed the drop on “current economic and geopolitical uncertainties.”

Turning back to Biden’s biotech initiative, the new executive order runs the gamut from pharmaceuticals to innovative plastics and biofuels. And it isn’t the first time Biden has taken steps to give the nation’s biopharma sector a shot in the arm.

Last June—on the heels of a February 2021 executive order demanding a multi-industry review of key American supply chains—the White House said it would establish a public-private partnership to pinpoint 50 to 100 essential medicines for an “enhanced onshoring” effort. At the time, the government earmarked about $60 million to research new technologies to boost domestic API production.

Still, not all experts are convinced that onshoring alone—or the return of manufacturing to U.S. soil—will fix the industry’s fragmented supply chains.

Comprehensive manufacturing localization would increase production speed and efficiency, but that agility “would be purchased at the cost of a considerable loss of efficiency given the need to build and maintain infrastructure, services and talent at local sites,” consulting firm EY told Fierce Pharma earlier this summer. In a report on bolstering the industry’s supply chains, EY’s message was clear: “Ultimately, some combination of localization and other strategies may provide the most satisfactory answer.”