SENATE COMMITTEE APPROVES EXPANDED BIOTECH FUNDING PROPOSAL
The biotech industry got a partial victory in its efforts to allow more venture capital-backed firms to receive research funding when compromise legislative language passed out of committee July 27.
The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and Republican lawmakers agreed to language allowing biotech firms with majority venture capital backing to be eligible to receive some federal funds reserved for small businesses. Under current law, companies with majority ownership or control by venture capitalists were not eligible to compete for the approximately $2 billion in Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) funds available each year.
BIO, Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), the chairwoman of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, Kit Bond (R-Mo.) and other lawmakers agreed to add the provision allowing these firms to compete for 25 percent of those funds to language in the Small Business Administration (SBA) reauthorization bill. The amendment passed committee by a voice vote.
Industry had originally sought the right to compete for all of these funds, but Snowe opposed the move, instead preferring a compromise. The senator previously said she wanted to find "middle ground" between allowing more firms with venture capital ownership and making eligibility so broad that the companies that currently do not qualify as small businesses become eligible for the SBIR funds.
The amendment represents a "very, very good first step" in negotiations, one industry source said. "This is a compromise. We want to continue to work with the Senate to get this passed," the source added.
Industry is also working with House lawmakers. BIO is focusing on Rep. Sam Graves' (R-Mo.) bill, H.R. 2943, which would make all SBIR funding available to majority venture capital owned firms. This bill "will ensure that small businesses engaged in capital intensive research, like [agriculture], life and bio sciences, have access to their fair share of federal funds," Graves said in a statement. (http://www.fdanews.com/did/5_147/)