Biotechnology Risks Falling under the Radar

via Tim Marler

International competition and risks surrounding biotechnology are increasing quickly.  Although policy is in place to monitor exchange of intellectual property and data, critical loopholes remain.

The interagency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) reviews new companies, investments, and transactions, and it currently pays special attention to China.  This is especially relevant in regard to biotechnology, as China has arguably made efforts to acquire international data that can in turn foster efforts to assess and potentially control health care for different countries, not to mention potential efforts to weaponize various aspects of biological data.  While CFIUS does provide a mechanism for monitoring efforts that may threaten National security, it does not cover international companies that build facilities in the United States from the ground up.  As an example, WuXi Biologics is taking such steps with a new production facility in Worcester, Massachusetts.  While construction, the associated tax base, and the potential job creation can be appealing, the risk to national security can be significant.  Near peer competitors could gather data about US technologies and citizens without being noticed.

In response to this kind of loophole, The Department of the Treasury, in collaboration with the Department of Commerce (DoC), should consider re-evaluating whether CFIUS is sufficient in addressing this kind of vulnerability or if new policy should be developed.  In addition, DoC should investigate implications of any related ongoing efforts with respect to the Wassenaar Arrangement, which is a voluntary export control regime that fosters the exchange of information about the transfer of weapons and dual-use goods and technologies.

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