Biotechnology by Mid-Century: Assessing current capabilities. Anticipating tomorrow’s leaders.

The esteemed physicist Freeman Dyson, in an essay in the New York Review of Books in 2007, wrote: “It has become part of the accepted wisdom to say that the twentieth century was the century of physics and the twenty-first century will be the century of biology.” Cutting-edge biotechnologies, e.g., synthetic biology and genome engineering, offer opportunities to improve our ability to enhance wellness and treat disease, address food insecurity, mitigate climate change, strengthen biodefense, and as we have seen over recent months, combat future pandemics.

Today, the United States leads the world in biotechnological expertise and innovation. Whether it continues to do so by mid-century will depend on how the biotechnology development environment, i.e., the drivers of innovation, in the United States compares to that of other nations. This report from the JCVI Policy Center attempts to define and semi‐quantitatively characterize the factors that may increase or decrease the rate of biotechnology innovation in selected nations around the world. We conclude that continued leadership by the US compared to China seems likely but is by no means assured.

Within each of 12 countries, we have assembled and analyzed a series of close to 100 indicators in a wide variety of categories. These include indicators of scientific, technological, policy, and broad societal drivers that enable the development of biotechnology innovation today and in the future. For lack of an existing term, we have coined the word “bio-enterprise” to refer to the entire biotechnology innovation and production system, including the broader S&T and general societal environments on which it depends.

We then construct a series of scenarios that project future bio-enterprise capacity in these 12 nations under varying degrees of governmental policy attention or neglect. By 2050, we project that the United States’ foremost competitors will be China, followed by India. Other countries examined within the report include Brazil, Germany, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, and South Korea.

Principal Investigator


Anne E. Beall, PhD

Robert M. Friedman, PhD


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