BioNETWORK: The Internet Of Distributed Biomanufacturing

Photo: biologist using a dropper to put a chemical into a beaker filled with plants


The future of United States industrial growth resides in the establishment of biotechnology as a new pillar of industrial domestic manufacturing, thus enabling delivery of robust supply chains and revolutionary products such as materials, pharmaceuticals, food, energy. Traditional centralized manufacturing of the past is brittle, prone to disruption, and unable to deliver new products that leverage unique attributes of biology. Today, there exists the opportunity to develop the science, infrastructure, and workforce to establish the BioNETWORK to advance domestic distributed biomanufacturing, strengthen U.S.-based supply chain intermediaries, provide workforce development for underserved communities, and achieve our own global independence and viability in biomanufacturing. Implementing the BioNETWORK to create an end-to-end distributed biomanufacturing platform will fulfill the Executive Order on Advancing Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Innovation and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Bold Goals for U.S. Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing.

Challenge And Opportunity

Biotechnology harnesses the power of biology to create new services and products, and the economic activity derived from biotechnology and biomanufacturing is referred to as the bioeconomy. Today, biomanufacturing and most other traditional non-biomanufacturing is centralized. Traditional manufacturing is brittle, does not enhance national economic impact or best use national raw materials/resources, and does not maximize innovation enabled by the unique workforce distributed across the United States. Moreover, in this era of supply chain disruptions due to international competition, climate change, and pandemic-sized threats (both known and unknown), centralized approaches that constitute a single point of attack/failure and necessarily restricted, localized economic impact are themselves a huge risk. While federal government support for biotechnology has increased with recent executive orders and policy papers, the overarching concepts are broad, do not provide actionable steps for the private sector to respond to, and do not provide the proper organization and goals that would drive outcomes of real manufacturing, resulting in processes or products that directly impact consumers. A new program must be developed with clear milestones and deliverables to address the main challenges of biomanufacturing. Centralized biomanufacturing is less secure and does not deliver on the full potential of biotechnology because it is: 

  • Reliant on a narrow set of feedstocks and reagents that are not local, introducing supply chain vulnerabilities that can halt bioproduction in its earliest steps of manufacturing.
  • Inflexible for determining the most effective, stable, scalable, and safe methods of biomanufacturing needed for multiple products in large facilities.
  • Serial in scheduling, which introduces large delays in production and limits capacity and product diversity. 
  • Bespoke and not easily replicated when it comes to selection and design of microbial strains, cell free systems, and sequences of known function outside of the facility that made them. Scale-up and reproducibility of biomanufacturing products are limited.
  • Creating waste streams because circular economies are not leveraged.
  • Vulnerable to personnel shortages due to shifting economic, health, or other circumstances related to undertraining of a biotechnology specialized workforce.

Read the full article here.


Oct 10, 2023


Justin Sanchez


Federation of American Scientists

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