Senate Small Business Committee Reinstates Limited SBIR Grant Eligibility for Firms Majority-Backed by Venture Capital

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (Wednesday, July 30, 2008) - Small businesses that are majority-backed by venture capital, many of which are producing biotech therapies and cures, will be eligible for a portion of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants under a bill reported out of the Senate Committee on Small Business today.  The bill reauthorizes the SBIR program for 14 years.

“Thousands of small companies are pursuing biotech innovations that can improve human health, expand our food supply, and provide new sources of energy,” said Greenwood.  “They may not yet have product revenue, but they have tremendous potential – and are precisely the kinds of efforts the SBIR program was intended to foster.”

In 2003, the Small Business Administration reinterpreted SBIR eligibility criteria to exclude companies that are majority-backed by venture capital.  Because of the long and expensive process of bringing biotech innovations to market, venture capital often comprises the majority of their funding stream. 

“We are grateful to Senators Kerry, Snowe and Bond and the many parties who have worked diligently to pursue a remedy,” said Greenwood.  “Though biotechnology is a young industry, it is the science that holds the best promise for addressing auto-immune diseases, chronic illnesses, and our need for sustainable food and fuel sources.”

Historically the SBIR program has provided critical financial support to biotech companies while its rigorous review process has conferred a high level of credibility.  Of the 252 FDA-approved biologics, 32% of those companies received at least one SBIR/STTR award.

The SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2008 passed by the Senate Committee on Small Business today contains the following provisions:

  • Reauthorization:  The program would be extended for 14 years.
  • Venture Capital Investments: 
    • The Department of Health and Human Services (NIH):  companies majority- owned and controlled by multiple venture capital companies can compete for up to 18% of that agency’s SBIR funds
    • All other agencies:  majority-backed VC companies can compete for up to 8% of SBIR funds. 
    • Companies whose backing by a single VC comprises more than 49% would remain ineligible for SBIR grants at all agencies.
  • Award Levels:
    • Phase I awards are increased from $100,000 to $150,000
    • Phase II awards are increased from $750,000 to $1 million
    • No agency will be allowed to exceed the award amount by more than 50%
  • Oversight:  There are numerous provisions requiring each agency to track how many majority venture capital company proposals are received and the amount of venture capital a company has when it receives an award. 


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BIO represents more than 1,200 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and in more than 30 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products. BIO also produces the BIO International Convention, the world’s largest gathering of the biotechnology industry, along with industry-leading investor and partnering meetings held around the world.

About BIO
BIO is the world's largest trade association representing biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and in more than 30 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products. BIO also produces the BIO International Convention, the world’s largest gathering of the biotechnology industry, along with industry-leading investor and partnering meetings held around the world. BIOtechNOW is BIO's blog chronicling “innovations transforming our world” and the BIO Newsletter is the organization’s bi-weekly email newsletter. Subscribe to the BIO Newsletter.