Senate Committee Approves Legislation to Restore Grant Eligibility for Small Biotech Companies

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 27, 2006) -- Jim Greenwood, President and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), issued the following statement praising members of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee for supporting legislation that would restore Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant eligibility to small biotech companies that are majority backed by private investment.

“I commend members of the committee for supporting this important legislation and thank Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) for his leadership in offering the amendment to the Small Business Administration reauthorization bill.  I also want to express my appreciation to the other members of the Committee, particularly Chairman Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) for their important contributions to achieve the compromise language included in the Bond amendment.

“For more than 20 years, small biotech and medical device companies qualified for SBIR grants. The arbitrary 2003 change in eligibility standards inequitably penalized biotech firms and has delayed — in some cases even prevented — lifesaving drugs and life-enhancing medical innovations from reaching patients and consumers.

“Presently, companies that are 51 percent owned by a group of venture capital firms are not eligible for SBIR grants. Most small and emerging biotechnology companies, which are years away from revenue-generating products, must look to the venture capital community for investments to fund the very high-cost preclinical and clinical research. Prior to the new interpretation, these companies used SBIR grants to validate the potential of their research as they raised critical start-up investment funds.

“This amendment restores the original interpretation of eligibility by allowing more biotech and medical device companies to again compete for funding -albeit limited- to conduct research on innovative new medical therapies, providing promise and hope for millions of patients and their families. 

“Over 325 million patients have been helped by one or more of the 200 biotech drugs and vaccines already on the market.”

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.