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H.R. 4374 – The Engineering Biology Research & Development Act of 2019

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a cost estimate report on Nov. 1 for The Engineering Biology Research and Development Act of 2019 (H.R. 4373), as ordered reported by the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology on September 25, 2019. H.R. 4373 would direct the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to establish a national engineering biology research and development initiative.

Under that initiative, federal agencies would provide research grants in engineering biology, develop and validate tools and technologies, support the commercialization of engineering biology products, and conduct related public outreach. The bill would require OSTP to establish an interagency committee—with representation from at least eight federal agencies—to coordinate those activities.

H.R. 4373 also would direct the National Science Foundation (NSF) to enter into an agreement with the National Academies to review ethical, legal, environmental, and societal issues related to engineering biology.

Using information from the affected agencies, CBO expects that many agencies are already conducting activities required under the bill. On that basis, and considering the costs of similar tasks, CBO estimates that each of the eight agencies and OSTP would require one additional employee at an average annual cost of $150,000 each to participate in the initiative and interagency committee. In addition, using information from the NSF, CBO estimates that conducting the required review would cost less than $1 million. In total, CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 4373 would cost $7 million over the 2020-2024 period; such spending would be subject to the availability of appropriated funds.

The CBO report assesses the cost of implementing the bill and does not reflect program funding for research projects.


SUMMARY OF H.R. 4373

The following is the bulk of the bill in as it exists as of 5 Nov 2019. Please visit Congress.gov to see the full text and track changes.

H. R. 4373

A BILL

To provide for a coordinated Federal research initiative to ensure continued United States leadership in engineering biology.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the “Engineering Biology Research and Development Act of 2019”.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

The Congress makes the following findings:

(1) Cellular and molecular processes may be used, mimicked, or redesigned to develop new products, processes, and systems that improve societal well-being, strengthen national security, and contribute to the economy.

(2) Engineering biology relies on a workforce with a diverse and unique set of skills combining the biological, physical, chemical, and information sciences and engineering.

(3) Long-term research and development is necessary to create breakthroughs in engineering biology. Such research and development requires government investment as many of the benefits are too distant or uncertain for industry to support alone.

(4) Research is necessary to inform evidence-based governance of engineering biology and to support the growth of the engineering biology industry.

(5) The Federal Government can play an important role by facilitating the development of tools and technologies to further advance engineering biology, including user facilities, by facilitating public-private partnerships, by supporting risk research, and by facilitating the commercial application in the United States of research funded by the Federal Government.

(5) The United States led the development of the science and engineering techniques that created the field of engineering biology, but due to increasing international competition, the United States is at risk of losing its competitive advantage if does not invest the necessary resources and have a national strategy.

(6) A National Engineering Biology Initiative can serve to establish new research directions and technology goals, improve interagency coordination and planning processes, drive technology transfer to the private sector, and help ensure optimal returns on the Federal investment.

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