Friday, March 27, 2009

NIH Slowly and Reluctantly Yielding to SBIR Pressure on Stimulus Funding

Letter writing works! A small victory was won by small business yesterday, as The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), an NIH component, has reversed their previous decision to deny SBIR granted companies receipt of Stimulus funds for "administrative supplements" per the exclusion that was included in the ARRA Stimulus Bill. These supplements were announced on March 16th in NIH Notice NOT-OD-09-056, and are designed to "promote job creation and economic development along with accelerating the pace and achievement of scientific research". Nineteen other NIH Instutues had already decided to allow the granting of supplements to SBIR grantees despite the exclusion.

A letter writing campaign, spearheaded by a Seattle small business called Icogenex, produced a reversal of policy from Dr. Story Landis, NINDS Director, who said, in a brief note to Fred Hagen, Icogenex CEO, "This is to let you know that the NINDS will now accept requests for supplements from grantees with SBIR and STTR funding. The new information should appear on our website in the next day or two". We applaud Dr, Landis' decison and encourage all NIH Institutes to follow her lead.

However, we still have not seen where the NIH or the HHS has complied with the Senate's request for a written response to how they will be funding additional new SBIR and STTR projects despite the ARRA exclusion. If a letter has been received by Senator Landrieu's Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, they have not shared it with us as of the time of this posting. If anyone knows of such a response, please let us know.

But the lesson here, is that, again, a letter writing campaign has produced positive results. We're going to continue to use this approach in the SBIR Reauthorization effort that's about to be launched. Keep up with the progress and get template letters at

And, in a related note, I had the distinct pleasure of spending a good deal of time with Jim Jaffe and Kelly O'Day of the National Association of Seed and Venture Funds (NASVF) at the World's Best Technologies Showcase conference that was held this week in Arlington, TX. We found much that we agree upon, including the basic issues involved in the SBIR Reauthorization debate, and they will be encouraging an attitude of reason and compromise to their VC membership as the SBIR debate unfolds. I became a member of NASVF this week, and plan to be an active contributor to their mission.

PS: Due to a bad link in a newsletter that features my columns, some of you wrote me that you were unable to read my "Movers and Shakers" column of March 18th. Click HERE to see the full posting.

1 comment:

Jonathan Pearl said...

I spoke with Thad Inge on Wednesday regarding the NIH/HHS response to the request for clarification from Sens. Landrieu and Snowe. Thad is the Senate Small Business Committee staffer in charge of SBIR matters.

Word from him was that they had spoken on the phone with NIH on Tuesday, and were assured that the written response was on its way. Further, NIH had stated verbally that "most" institutes would be providing the 2.8% required by SBIR/STTR despite the exclusion in ARRA. But (like with a car salesman) what they put in writing is key.

Thad assured me that the committee remains committed to ensuring that HHS fulfill the entirety of its obligation to SBIR/STTR.