Arising from its roots in the US, biotechnology today is a global enterprise. Cutting-edge tools are transforming traditional models of drug discovery and development and diagnostic testing. They are enabling the potential for large-scale production of renewable fuels, biodegradable materials, safer industrial chemicals and food crops grown under harsh conditions. The practice of technological innovation in the industrial era – the systematic application of ideas, inventions and technology to markets, trade and social systems – is now being joined with the code of life through rapid DNA sequencing and synthesis technologies. The pace of bioscience innovation is also influenced by geographic concentration of research, entrepreneurship and investment (clusters). Policy makers are just beginning to consider and debate the implications of the new biological technologies: the promises they hold for global public health, natural resource conservation, and economic growth, and the risks they pose from their power and accessibility around the world.