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National new biology initiative offers potential for 'remarkable and far-reaching benefits'
Date:9/17/2009

nd technology, and others, a major new initiative is needed, the committee concluded.

The national new biology initiative should have a timeline of at least 10 years and funding in addition to current research budgets, and it should be an interagency effort to reflect the interdisciplinary approach to research, the committee emphasized. The report also underscores the importance of making information technologies a priority in the initiative given that information is the "fundamental currency" of the new biology.

"A new biology initiative would be a daring addition to the nation's research portfolio, but we believe the potential benefits are remarkable and far-reaching," said Phillip Sharp, co-chair of the committee that wrote the report and Institute Professor for the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge.

The report describes four broad challenges where the new initiative could accelerate the emergence of an integrated approach to biology and bear its "first fruits." For starters, it could meet food security challenges by developing the capacity to quickly adapt plants to any growing conditions. The initiative also could be used to address environmental issues by making it possible to monitor ecosystems and diagnose and repair ecosystem damage. On the energy front, the new biology initiative could speed the development of alternatives to fossil fuels by optimizing systems for turning plant cellulose into biofuel. A fourth goal should be to advance so-called personalized medicine by making it possible to monitor and treat a person's health in a manner that is tailored to that individual, the goal being to provide individually predictive surveillance and care.

"We need to set big goals, and let the problems drive the science," said committee co-chair Thomas Connelly Jr., executive vice president and a member of the office of the chief executive for E. I. du Pont
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Contact: Jennifer Walsh
news@nas.edu
202-334-2138
National Academy of Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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