Biopharmas Welcome Research Grant-Funding Renewal

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By John T. Aquino

Life sciences companies and investors said Jan. 6 President Barack Obama’s signing into law a five-year reauthorization of small business research funding programs greatly benefits life sciences startups.

“Thank you Congress for reauthorizing the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. This is huge for the biotech industry,” Brian Wamhoff, co-founder and head of innovation for the Virginia-based biopharma HemoShear Therapeutics LLC, told Bloomberg BNA in a Jan. 6 e-mail. He said HemoShear is a recipient of multiple SBIR grants from the National Institutes of Health.

The reauthorization of the SBIR and STTR programs was included in the 55th National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA, S. 2943). The House passed the bill Dec. 2, and the Senate passed it on Dec. 8. President Obama signed the legislation on Dec. 23 as Public Law No. 114-328 (11 LSLR 01, 1/6/17). The new law reauthorizes the SBIR/STTR programs from Sept. 20, when they were scheduled to expire, to Sept. 30, 2022.

“These programs are vital tools to support entrepreneurship in the United States, and by reauthorizing the programs this year, policymakers are providing certainty that they will not be unnecessarily jeopardized,” Bobby Franklin, president and chief executive officer of the National Venture Capital Association, told Bloomberg BNA in a Jan. 6 e-mail.

Spanning ‘Valley of Death.’

Wamhoff, who has testified before Congress in support of the SBIR/STTR program, said, “These programs are a meaningful source of funding that help companies like ours bridge the ‘valley of death’ from early concept to commercial viability. Thanks to these SBIRs, we are developing therapies for children with rare diseases, diseases for which there are no treatments. Extending the life of a terminally ill child is a powerful return on our taxpayers’ investment.”

The programs are funded by set-asides from the extramural research and development budgets of participating federal agencies and provide grants to small businesses through a competitive award process.

Under the new law, the set-asides remain at current levels of 3.2 percent for SBIR and 0.45 percent for STTR of an agency’s extramural R&D budget. The reauthorization omits the administrative funds pilot program provision included in the 2012 reauthorization.

“Reauthorization of these important programs is welcome news for the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Venture-backed companies that have received SBIR funding have made incredible contributions to our economy, [including] regenerative wound healing therapies, biometric sensor technology and military prototype development,” Franklin told Bloomberg BNA.

To contact the reporter on this story: John T. Aquino in Washington at jaquino@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Randy Kubetin at RKubetin@bna.com

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