Black History Month: the policymakers & government leaders advancing biotech

Black policymakers and government leaders

Breakthroughs in biotech involve collaboration at every level. While entrepreneurial innovation is often the most visible, it’s policymaking and government leadership that lays the groundwork for biotech advancement to take shape.

Many Black policymakers and government leaders have been great champions of STEM and biotech development. From environmental justice to public health and national security, they’ve facilitated growth that benefits all Americans. Here are just some of the many Black policymakers and government leaders whose accomplishments you should know.

Wes Moore

Maryland Governor

Current Maryland Governor Wes Moore became the first African-American governor of the state when he was elected in 2022 and took office in 2023. In October, Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) CEO Rachel King met with Gov. Moore, who toured the University of Maryland BioPark, met biotech leaders, and discussed why Maryland is a model for states looking to grow their bioeconomies.

When Gov. Moore toured BioPark, he saw firsthand how funding from Maryland’s Innovation Economy Infrastructure Act of 2023 could support projects like BioPark’s new building, which has a wet lab, lab space for startups, and office and convention space. “When it comes to biopharma, when it comes to biotech, when it comes to life sciences, these are elements and areas that we have a specific competitive advantage in—if we choose to invest deliberately,” said Gov. Moore.

BIO was and remains honored to have had this chance to discuss the impact of the biotech sector in Maryland and beyond. Notably, Maryland is ranked as the third biopharma cluster in the nation and second in life sciences, said Gov. Moore. The state has 3,104 bioscience industry establishments employing 49,945 workers, according to a BIO report published in June.

Lisa Jackson

Former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator

Lisa Jackson was the first Black American to serve as Administrator of the EPA when she led the agency from 2009 to 2013. Over the course of her tenure at the EPA, Jackson focused on environmental justice and ensuring that all communities enjoy clean water and air, as well as job growth. Jackson is currently at Apple, where she is the Vice President of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives, reporting to CEO Tim Cook.

David Scott

U.S. Rep. (D-GA-13)

Rep. Scott made history when he became the first Black Chair of the House Agriculture Committee in 2021. Currently, he is the first Black Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee since 2023. Scott has long been a dedicated champion of important agricultural policy advances that have facilitated greater innovation.

Lloyd Austin III

U.S. Secretary of Defense

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is the first Black American to serve as Secretary of Defense, when he took office in January 2021 under the Biden administration. Austin has brought to the role decades of service and leadership as a retired U.S. Army four-star general who, before retiring in 2016, served as the Commander of U.S. Central Command.

In the post-COVID-19 world, he has demonstrated vitally important leadership on the linkage between matters of public health and national security. The Department of Defense has long been a center of creativity and innovation through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), including in DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, which works to develop capabilities which better protect members of the U.S. military.

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