Grants for small biotechs include infectious-disease projects

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Nov 4, 2010 (CIDRAP News) – Federal officials announced yesterday that $1 billion worth of grants and tax credits will be awarded to thousands of small biotechnology companies to support the development of new medical therapies, including a number of products for infectious diseases.

The funds, authorized under the healthcare reform law passed this year, are going to 2,923 companies in 47 states and Washington, DC, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

"These grants made possible by the Affordable Care Act will not only help to create jobs and bolster the economy but also bring us closer to the next generation of life-saving cures," said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, in the HHS announcement.

"The projects funded show significant potential to create new therapies that will address unmet medical needs and bolster the medical countermeasure supply we use to respond to health emergencies," Collins added.

Besides producing new therapies, the goals of the "therapeutic discovery project program" include reducing the increase in healthcare costs and making progress toward curing cancer within 30 years, HHS reported. The criteria for the awards also included the potential to create high-quality jobs in the United States.

The awards cover up to 50% of the cost of qualifying research and are available only to firms with fewer than 250 employees, the HHS statement said. Tax credits are for investments made in 2009 and 2010. For the benefit of start-up companies that are not yet profitable, firms could receive a grant instead of a tax credit. A scan of the online list of recipients suggests that most of the awards are in the form of grants.

The 4,606 projects listed as recipients include a number of products aimed at infectious diseases. Some are new antibiotics intended for resistant strains of bacteria, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. For example, Achaogen Inc., a California firm, is receiving four grants of about $244,000 each to develop new antibiotics targeting resistant bacteria.

Some of the products are aimed at influenza. For example, Adamas Pharmaceuticals, another California company, is receiving about $244,000 for a triple-combination antiviral therapy for flu.

The announcement of the awards was made by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, along with Collins.

See also:

Nov 3 HHS press release

State-by-state list of award recipients and projects

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