BioMADE is the newest of several member based Manufacturing Institutes funded by the Department of Defense to increase public private partnerships. BioMADE is focused on advancing bioindustrial manufacturing to get more products across the Valley of Death to being produced at scale. Bioindustrial manufacturing is distinct from biopharmaceuticals, in that it uses cells, or even cell-free systems, to produce large amounts of chemicals used in industrial applications like fuels, paints and coatings, plastics, rubber, and even cement. BioMADE held its inaugural member meeting at the Science Museum in St. Paul, Minnesota June 13-15, allowing government, industry, and education sectors to come together to learn, collaborate, and plan for the future bioeconomy. Opening remarks from Secretary of Agriculture, Dr. Tom Vilsack, pointed to benefits of expanding a bio-based economy in increasing the nation's competitiveness, securing resilient supply chains, and providing opportunity to rural and underserved populations.
BioMADE's Education and Workforce Development (EWD) team is led by the Chief Workforce Development Officer, Tom Tubon (pictured above), and Senior Program Manager, Louise Petruzella. Their focus is on finding ways to replicate and scale up the many good things that are happening at a local or regional level to lead to national transformative change. They have been listening to needs from government and industry and there will be a forthcoming blueprint this fall to further guide BioMADE's EWD efforts. Tom and Louise moderated two sessions with industry and education people. On the horizon for education, industry representatives mentioned that knowledge and understanding of coding and handling of large datasets would set candidates apart.
Two project calls have happened under the umbrella of EWD. People from projects funded in the first project call presented about their work. One of these projects is helping to expand bioindustrial manufacturing to Hawaii while providing training to current industry employees. Another project is incorporating bioindustrial manufacturing into the first year research experience at University of Texas in Austin in cooperation with students taking certificate courses at Austin Community College. STEMConnector is completing an environmental scan of industry to help focus EWD efforts. Finally, a project out of the University of Georgia is developing a cost-effective bioreactor that could be more widely used in education settings. See the rest of BioMADE projects here. If you have an idea for a project, there is an open project call and Tom and Louise invite members to reach out to them with ideas.
Also featured at the meeting were speakers from the government. Of particular interest was Ms. Kris O'Brien (pictured above) from the Department of Defense who spoke about biotech solutions for logistical challenges in the military. Fuel is often needed in remote places and it would be an advantage to produce fuel onsite using waste materials. Then there are also fewer waste materials that need to be removed from a site. Biosynthetic fibers can provide protection on aircraft and ships. Dandelions can be a source of rubber, reducing reliance on global supply chains. Biocement can be used to build a helicopter pad or similar in 96 hours. Microbial fuel filters can clean up fuel that has been stored that fighter jets may not tolerate otherwise. For the troops themselves, biotech may offer solutions to suboptimal sleep through the use of performance probiotics that can reduce fatigue and maintain focus that may be needed during disaster or military response. Improved nutrition technology may provide proteins that help with high altitude adaptation and 3-D printed steak or other cultured meat may provide protein that has minimal weight. There are still challenges in maintaining access to clean water and in reducing corrosion from salt water. Many industry members presented, too. From Checkerspot/WNDR Alpine algae based skis to biobased nylon used in Lululemon products, to advancements being made by Amyris in clean manufacturing and hypersonic fuels in development at the Air Force Research Lab, many innovations were described.These were all examples I plan to share with students to expand their awareness and thinking about solutions bioindustrial manufacturing can provide.
Overall, my views on the ways bioindustrial manufacturing will change the world were expanded and I look forward to more collaboration with BioMADE, particularly as more biomanufacturing makes its way to the Midwest. If your community college is not yet a member of BioMADE, I would encourage you to consider...memberships for community colleges are $100, an incredible value for the new opportunities BioMADE could bring your way.