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Senate Approves Extending SBIR, STTR Programs

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The US Senate yesterday passed a bill that will expand and extend for another six years the Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer programs, which provides grants to businesses through the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy.

Passed as part of a large funding bill for the Department of Defense that received bipartisan support (86 to 13 with one non-vote), the SBIR/STTR reauthorization will extend the programs through 2017, will increase their allotment in agency budgets, and will boost the size of the grants to small businesses.

The plan increases the amount departments have to set aside for the programs incrementally over the six-year period, with the SBIR program increasing from 2.5 percent to 3.2 percent and the STTR allocations increasing from .3 percent to .45 percent.

The reauthorization, which passed in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, also would increase the participation of companies receiving a majority of funding from venture capital investors to apply for expanded portions of agency budgets, at a level of 25 percent at NIH, DOE, and NSF, and 15 percent for other agencies.

Among other measures, the new program also seeks to shorten the time agencies have to make funding decisions to 90 days and to shorten the time between the award decision and the release of funds. It also will increase oversight of the program, reduce the paperwork burden, and establish outreach and commercialization initiatives.

As GenomeWeb Daily News reported yesterday, The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology does not approve of the plan to increase the portion of agency budgets if those expenses will be offset by cuts to other research grants.

"We are especially concerned that the proposed increase in the SBIR/STTR allocation would be implemented as the budgets of the federal science agencies are likely to shrink or at best remain flat," FASEB stated in a letter signed by a number of other research advocacy groups last week.

Biotechnology Industry Organization President and CEO Jim Greenwood said in a statement today that SBIR and STTR programs "are critical sources of funding for emerging biotechnology companies in the early development stages of medical research for serious and life-threatening diseases, including cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and Parkinson's."

"We especially are pleased that this Act will allow majority venture capital-backed companies to once again compete for SBIR/STTR funds, which will help level the playing field for small biotechnology companies so that they can continue to bring innovative medical treatments and cures to market. Allowing companies that are primarily funded through venture capital to compete once again for SBIR/STTR grants will increase the number of new medical discoveries and innovations available to patients," Greenwood added.

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