Sixty research, biotech, and patient advocacy organizations are pressing Congress to overturn a government rule that blocks companies from receiving Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants if those companies are more than half financed by venture capital (VC), a rule they claim is impeding medical innovation.

SBIR grants, awarded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and 10 other Federal government agencies, give small companies seed money to fund early stage and proof of concept research with discoveries having potential for commercialization and public benefit. Last year, NIH awarded 2,200 small business grants worth more than $613 million and has given out more than $3 billion since the program's start in 1982.

To qualify for SBIR grants, companies must be at least 51 percent owned by individuals who are U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens. But in 2001 the Small Business Administration (SBA), which oversees the SBIR program, began interpreting...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?