Biotech firms see $1 billion in health reform funding

The HHS and Treasury awards target research that could treat chronic diseases, advance cancer cures and reduce the long-term growth of medical costs.

By Doug Trapp — Posted Nov. 16, 2010

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With small biotech companies struggling to find funding since the economic downturn, thousands will boost their research with part of $1 billion in grants and tax credits for biomedical research made available through a program the national health reform law created.

The Depts. of Health and Human Services and Treasury announced the Therapeutic Discovery Project Program award winners on Nov. 3. In all, 2,923 companies in 47 states and the District of Columbia received 4,606 awards.

The National Institutes of Health received and judged more than 5,600 applications, which was more than anticipated. Eligible companies could have received up to $5 million each, but demand forced HHS to limit the maximum individual award to $244,000. However, some firms received multiple awards.

The awards are targeting the biotech industry because the sector shed about 100 public companies since the fourth quarter of 2007, in part due to difficulty securing private investment. Today, the industry has at least 25% fewer public companies than three years ago, according to the Biotech Industry Organization. The biotech industry employs 1.3 million workers.

"With this funding, they'll be able to hire more staff, improve facilities and move forward with research projects that might otherwise have been put on hold," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

The program targeted projects and research that could:

  • Produce new therapies to treat areas of unmet medical need and prevent, detect and treat chronic and acute diseases and conditions.
  • Reduce the long-term growth of health care costs in the U.S.
  • Advance cancer cures significantly within 30 years.

HHS and Treasury also considered which projects showed the greatest potential to create and sustain high-quality, high-paying American jobs and advance U.S. competitiveness in life, biological and medical sciences.

The awards were available only to companies with 250 or fewer employees. The tax credit covers up to 50% of a taxpayer's qualified biomedical research investment made or to be made in 2009 or 2010.

Sen. John Kerry (D, Mass.), who co-wrote the Therapeutic Discovery Project Program provision of the health reform law, said in a statement that 558 Massachusetts companies will receive almost $129 million in awards. "This investment is a win-win that will create jobs while allowing hundreds of our companies to continue making medical advances."

A list of grant recipients is available online (link).

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