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is so important. And in a world when Fannie Mae goes bust, it’s understandable why investors are gun-shy, and not likely to pump cash into biotech. In the old days of 2007, there were 41 biotech companies that did initial public offerings, and together they raised $1.9 billion. Last year, in the meltdown of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers et al., only one biotech company went public, and raised a paltry $5.8 million, according to BioWorld.
One bright spot Greenwood highlighted in his opening remarks was from President Obama’s national address this week, in which he called for doubling the amount of cancer research funding over the course of several years with a goal of curing cancer in our lifetime. This might mean a $6 billion increase in the budget of the National Cancer Institute, a branch of the National Institutes of Health that does internal work and sponsors academic researchers around the country.
BIO has long pushed for increases in basic research funding, because it’s often the genesis for new company formation, but Greenwood is clearly worried that other policies will make it tougher for companies to get the investment they need to turn promising research into effective real-world drugs. In one example, BIO is pushing for a 14-year period of market exclusivity for makers of brand name biotech drugs, before they face competition from generic copies that make cheaper, knock-off versions of biologic drugs. He suggested that if the policies aren’t passed to his industry’s liking, then lawmakers will bottle up the pipeline of 254 different cancer drugs in the works, and will fall short of their goal of curing cancer.
“Incentives for innovation need to be preserved if we’re going to play a role in curing cancer,” Greenwood said.
One thing BIO tried to do for its members was to stick a provision in the new $787 billion federal stimulus bill that would have given a tax break to money-losing biotech companies. That failed, but BIO is apparently trying a new tack, to get something like a refundable grant program from the federal government, Greenwood says. With a whole lot of industries sticking their hands out to the federal government, including those that employ a lot more voters, it sounds like Greenwood has his work cut out.