BIO Strongly Supports House-Passed SBIR Reauthorization;

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Wednesday, July 08, 2009) - The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) strongly supports H.R. 2965, the measure the House of Representatives passed today that will allow small companies that receive the majority of their financing from venture capital to once again be eligible to compete for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants. 

BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood made the following statement today:

“Today’s passage of this bill is a critical step toward ensuring that all innovative companies can compete for SBIR grants – based on the promise of their science rather than the structure of their capital.  This change will allow more small biotechnology start-ups to continue critical research and development of medical advancements and breakthroughs. 

“We especially want to thank Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia Velasquez, Ranking Member Sam Graves, Science Committee Chairman Bart Gordon and Ranking Member Ralph Hall, Science Committee Technology and Innovation Subcommittee Chairman David Wu, and Congressman Jason Altmire for their vision and leadership in crafting a bill that supports small innovative U.S. companies.

“Over 90 percent of the biotech industry is composed of small businesses engaged in research and development that lasts an average of 10 years and can cost upwards of $1 billion.  Americans benefit from this high-risk, high-reward business model in the form of breakthrough therapies for debilitating diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer.

“We look forward to the SBIR program being reauthorized to reflect the realities facing small companies in capital-intensive industries such as biotechnology.  And to do so in a way that does not artificially limit the participation of some of our nation’s most innovative and promising small businesses.”

For six years, more than half of all small private U.S. biotech companies have not been allowed to compete for SBIR grants due to an arbitrary bureaucratic ruling.  In 2003, as a result of the Small Business Administration (SBA)’s reinterpretation of the program’s eligibility requirements, the applicant pool at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for SBIR grants has been shrinking.  For example, when they became ineligible for SBIR grants, several small biotech firms stopped their work aimed at developing new treatments for cancer and cystic fibrosis.             

Two years later, NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. told the SBA that limits on SBIR eligibility, “unduly restricts the ability of the NIH to fund high quality, small companies.”  He expressed concern that the eligibility requirement “undermines NIH’s ability to award SBIR funds to those applicants whom we believe are most likely to improve human health.”

Patient advocacy groups also have expressed concern about the eligibility restrictions. Sixty patient groups sent a letter to leaders of the 110th Congress in support of reinstating the eligibility of small biotech firms to compete for SBIR grants.  In the letter, they asked Congress to “help innovative research move forward in order to foster breakthrough cures.”

See BIO’s web site and SBIR blog at

Upcoming BIO Events

World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology & Bioprocessing
July 19-22, 2009
Montreal, Quebec, Canada 

BIO Investor Forum
October 28-29, 2009
San Francisco, CA

Advanced Business Development Course
October 30, 2009
Vienna, Austria

BIO Europe International Partnering Conference
November 2-4, 2009
Vienna, Austria

Pacific Rim Summit on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy
November 8-11, 2009
Honolulu, HI 

About BIO

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.