Changes to federal biotech grants?
The linkurl:House Committee on Small Business;http://www.house.gov/smbiz/ is calling on legislators to overhaul the federal Small Business Innovation Research linkurl:(SBIR);http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/15805/ program, which awarded more than $2 billion last year to biotech and other start-ups with promising and salable ideas or technologies.
The linkurl:House Committee on Small Business;http://www.house.gov/smbiz/ is calling on legislators to overhaul the federal Small Business Innovation Research linkurl:(SBIR);http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/15805/ program, which awarded more than $2 billion last year to biotech and other start-ups with promising and salable ideas or technologies. The committee is crafting legislation to reauthorize the SBIR program, which is managed by the US Small Business Administration (SBA) and is due to sunset at the end of September.
The SBIR program - which was created in 1982 and to date has awarded more than $12 billion in grants for early-stage research at small businesses - is successful, Edsel Brown, assistant director of SBA's Office of Technology, told __The Scientist__. But the program does need some improvements, Brown said. "We really do need to look at [the SBIR program] and make it as good as it can be and fine tune it."
Eleven federal agencies, including Health and Human Services and the National Science Foundation, participate in the SBIR program, and participating agencies must devote at least 2.5 percent of their extramural research budgets towards SBIR grants.
According to Committee Chairwoman linkurl:Nydia Velazquez;http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AclTmqqO0KE&feature=PlayList&p=2E3898CEE2253A32&index=0 (D-NY), there are several problems with the SBIR program as it now stands: SBIR awards are not hefty enough to support modern-day research and development, the SBIR program makes too many companies ineligible for SBIR money because they are supported by venture capital, and the SBIR program is not placing enough of an emphasis on the commercialization of the technologies it supports.
The committee's legislation suggests attracting more companies to the program by doubling SBIR award amounts - from $100,000 to $200,000 for phase I SBIR awards and from $750,000 to $1,500,000 for phase II awards. It also suggests redefining "small business" to include companies in which more than 50 percent of stock is held by venture capital investors. Under current rules, some companies with this much venture capital investment are not eligible to receive SBIR awards, and the SBA wants to keep this limitation.
Jim Greenwood, CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), linkurl:commended;http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2dU7Tb_Gis&feature=PlayList&p=2E3898CEE2253A32&index=6 the committee for its "insight in including a remedy to the eligibility issues affecting many small life sciences companies in the reauthorization legislation soon to be introduced," he said. "It is the right thing to do, and this is the right time to do it." Greenwood added that SBIR applications received by NIH have dramatically decreased in recent years. "The number of new businesses applying is at the lowest level it has been in a decade," he said.
A spokesperson for the House Committee on Small Business wrote in an Email to __The Scientist__ that the committee "expects the bill to make it to the floor before the September 30th deadline," but could not give a more exact timeline.