U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., is one of just two senators who will have a direct hand in helping set national policy concerning the use of biotechnology for military and other purposes.

The Hoosier lawmaker recently was appointed to serve on the National Security Commission on Emerging Biotechnology established earlier this year by the $770 billion National Defense Authorization Act.

The commission is tasked with finding ways of maintaining U.S. technological advantages in biotechnology, promoting American competitiveness in biotechnology, growing public and private sector research and development programs, and devising ethical guidelines for the use of biotechnology.

Biotechnology generally is defined as technology that employs biological systems, living organisms, or parts of living organisms to create different products.

Baking bread and brewing beer are examples of existing biotechnology because a living organism — yeast — helps produce the final product.

The future uses of biotechnology are more varied, and potentially problematic, such as DNA manipulation, reproductive engineering, computer-human interfaces and synthetic organisms.

The eight-member panel, modeled after a similar federal commission for artificial intelligence that made many recommendations that now are law, is due to consult with experts, study biotechnology issues, and prepare an initial report for the president and the House and Senate Armed Service Committees within one year.

The commission is due to issue its final report, with recommendations for action by Congress and the federal government, in two years.

“I am excited to be named to the National Security Commission on Emerging Biotechnology, and I look forward to examining the serious questions about the role biotechnology plays in our rapidly changing world,” Young said.

“As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, exploring the national security implications of biotechnology has never been more important.”

Young said the opportunities and applications for biotechnology are vast, ranging from weapons to farming. But he also noted there are many thorny issues relating to its use.

“Both the promises and perils of this emerging field demands thoughtful scrutiny while working to ensure American leadership on the questions surrounding standard setting of this technology,” Young said.

Three of the commission’s other members also are members of Congress: U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif.; U.S. Rep. Stephanie Bice, R-Okla.; and U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.

The four other members are: Dov Zakheim, senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and senior fellow at the CNA Corporation; Paul Arcangeli, staff director of the House Armed Services Committee; Alexander Titus, product strategy and operations lead at Google Research; and Jason Kelly, co-founder and CEO of Ginkgo Bioworks.

Separately, Young is lead Republican sponsor of United States Innovation and Competition Act, also known as the Endless Frontier Act, that would steer federal funds into emerging technologies like biotech, and establish tech hubs around the country to ensure high-tech jobs are not concentrated on the coasts.

That legislation is heartily supported by U.S. Rep. Frank J. Mrvan, D-Highland, who believes Northwest Indiana is well positioned to land one of the tech hubs given its growing tech sector, numerous higher education institutions and strong industrial base.

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