Civilization inflection point? China posed to pass US as world leader in biotechnology

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China is edging forward as a world leader in the biotech sector, one expert said.

“Biotechnologies, including synthetic biology, are going to be foundational to the 21st century economy and they’re also going to be a critical arena for global competition in the geopolitical realm,” said Tara O’Toole, former undersecretary of Homeland Security for science and technology and current executive vice president and senior fellow at In-Q-Tel.

A deepened understanding of biotech has moved the world towards a “biorevolution,” O’Toole said during a webinar hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

This could be the next stage in a series of scientific revolutions that have marked key inflection points in civilizations dating back hundreds of years, she said.

This type of revolution is founded on several core biological technologies, “but it is all about being able to read, write and edit the code of life,” O’Toole said.

Related article:  Pakistan suspends GMO corn imports, field trials to protect crop exports from 'contamination'

One core technology is DNA sequencing, or the ability to read DNA. Another is DNA synthesis, or the ability to write code for DNA, she noted.

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To compete with Beijing, the United States should be measuring and tracking the global “bioeconomy,” including China’s, O’Toole said.

More personnel with backgrounds in life sciences and biotechnology should be brought into public service, and a new strategy needs to be created that would improve the U.S. response to pandemics, she suggested.

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