WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 18, 2007) -- In a letter to Congressional leaders today, 52 patient advocacy and medical specialty groups urged for the restoration of eligibility for small biotechnology companies to compete for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants, a federal program that provides a vital source of funding for new biomedical innovation.
“The current eligibility guidelines are prohibiting many of the most innovative companies from competing for crucial early state research and development funding, which impacts the future of the research being pursued by universities and the patients that ultimately benefit from new treatments and cures,” the letter states. “We respectfully urge you to restore SBIR eligibility for majority venture-backed companies in the upcoming reauthorization of the program.”
In 2003, the Small Business Administration (SBA) reversed a 20-year-old policy by ruling that companies that are 51 percent owned by a group of private investors no longer qualify for SBIR grants.
Today’s letter was signed by a group reflecting a diverse cross section of diseases, including cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and a host of rare diseases.
“Millions of patients in America and throughout the world look to cutting-edge medical innovation in hopes of treating the devastating and chronic diseases they face. This letter is another plea for the government to untangle the bureaucracy blocking SBIR grants to those small companies who are doing frontline research everyday,” stated BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood.
As a result of the 2003 interpretation, the SBIR applicant pool is shrinking at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and work on life-saving and life-enhancing technology is being postponed, sometimes indefinitely. NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, MD, stated in a letter to the SBA that the limit on eligibility for SBIR grants “undermines NIH’s ability to award SBIR funds to those applicants whom we believe are most likely to improve human health, which is the mission of NIH.”
According to the groups, this decrease in SBIR grant applicants will have a severe impact on patients of all disease categories.
“Small biotechnology companies require significant venture capital investment, and unfortunately the SBA reinterpretation of the eligibility rules has hampered the continued research and development into biotechnology products, thereby delaying the delivery of future treatments to patients,” the letter states.
The letter was released as the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship held a roundtable discussion today to discuss the reauthorization of the SBIR program.
To view the letter, please visit http://www.bio.org/images/Gmail/SBIR_OCT.pdf.
BIO represents more than 1,100 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and 31 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products. BIO also produces the annual BIO International Convention, the global event for biotechnology. www.bio.org
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