Mary Maxon, Associate Lab Director for Biosciences, co-wrote the cover story for the March/April 2021 edition of The Environmental Law Institute’s (ELI) policy magazine, The Environmental Forum. Maxon and her co-author, David Rejeski, a visiting scholar at ELI, discussed everything related to the bioeconomy: economic activity that is driven by research and innovation in the life sciences and biotechnology, and that is enabled by technological advances in engineering and in computing and information sciences.
“Think of today’s biology not as a science, but as a precision-manufacturing platform — digitally interconnected, increasingly automated, flexible, and cost-effective,” they wrote. The U.S. bioeconomy is currently estimated to be worth $959 billion annually, and the ideas and products being developed across sectors continues to grow.
From re-engineering chitin in shrimp shells for sustainable packaging materials to the development of the first bio-jet fuel, ELI estimates that there are currently over 300 emerging biotech products and applications in the bioeconomy. Among the many examples highlighted in the article, the Joint BioEnergy Institute’s (JBEI) recent development of a biopesticide with antifungal properties was discussed, highlighting that this work — using plants as sustainable molecule manufacturers — is producing results previously unavailable with traditional methods.