Tuesday, March 23, 2010

ObamaCare "Cures" SBIR Controversy - CAN it be true?

Yes, you're reading that right. The "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" aka the Heath Care Reform Bill signed by President Obama today includes a provision that may affect SBIR. Maybe even CURES the controversy surrounding SBIR eligibility!

The provision is called the "Cures Acceleration Network" or CAN. It's Section 10409 of HR.3590. Look it up. (An SBIR awardee who's been one of the program's strongest advocates found this and alerted me to it's existence.)

CAN is an NIH funded initiative to provide a new grant mechanism open to biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies of all size to receive NIH grants of up to $15 million. A pot of $500 million has been allocated for the remainder of FY2010. It will be administered by a CAN Review Board of which at least 4 of the 24 members must be VCs.

If the bill avoids the upcoming procedural minefields and this provision survives, it completely obviates the need to include VC controlled companies in SBIR. For years many of us argued that VC controlled companies should be eligible to receive NIH grants - just not from the 2.8% SBIR/STTR allocation. BIO always replied that companies could never get funding outside of SBIR. The CAN program would completely turn their argument on its ear!

Now that Health Care won't necessarily hog the front-burner we might get some attention to other things -- like SBIR! And, maybe with CAN we have a way to keep SBIR from being hijacked by VCs and Big BIO.

Dare we hope this indeed "CURES" our impasse and allows SBIR to be reauthorized without drastically altering the program? Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

CAN Review Board of which at least 4 of the 24 members must be VCs

What? This is an instant and blatant conflict of interests. But let them have this, so they will (hopefully) leave SBIR alone...

Carl Nelson said...

The VCs probably won't be satisfied with a short term CAN program as a substitute for a long term SBIR program. This year's wonderful programs subject to annual appropriations have a way of disappearing next year. Imagine if SBIR had to be appropriated every year.