White House unveils $2 billion biotech spending plan ahead of industry summit

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FILE PHOTO: The White House is seen at sunset in Washington

By Jarrett Renshaw

(Reuters) - The White House released new details on Wednesday on how it plans to invest more than $2 billion in the U.S. biotechnology sector as it hosts a meeting of government leaders to discuss the emerging industry.

President Joe Biden on Monday signed an executive order that launched a national biotechnology and bio-manufacturing initiative, and on Wednesday the White House will hold a summit with top government officials and department heads to discuss plans on how to administer the order and allocate the money.

The executive order allows the federal government to direct funding for the use of microbes and other biologically derived resources to make new foods, fertilizers and seeds, as well as making mining operations more efficient, administration officials said.

It also will help fund a quest for medical breakthroughs, such as a vaccine to prevent cancer, or a blood test that could detect cancer in an annual physical.

The spending plan released by the White House includes $1 billion from the Department of Defense to fund bio-industrial domestic manufacturing infrastructure over five years to boost the industry and make it accessible to U.S. innovators.

Other spending includes a $250 million grant program administered by the Department of Agriculture to support sustainable American fertilizer production. A further $40 million will be used to expand the role of bio-manufacturing for active pharmaceutical ingredients, antibiotics and key materials needed to produce medications and respond to pandemics.

The federal government is already a source of funds to biotechnology research and development through the National Institute of Health, the DoA and other agencies. Overall U.S. funding for R&D has dropped as a percentage of gross domestic product since a peak in the 1950s, a trend Biden has pledged to reverse.

(Reporting By Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)