2010: The (government) check is in the mail

This year offered some sizable bonuses for the biotech crowd. With the government focused on reviving a swooning economy, the NIH was showered with fresh funds to back research projects around the country. Last year brought a $10 billion R&D windfall, which helped save thousands of research jobs this year. This sort of thinking advances the kind of science that goes on to become the tech foundation for the biotech startups of tomorrow.

In 2010, the government research agency also made a commitment to advancing cancer drug research. But the NIH sees a much bigger role for itself in the drug development game.

Just weeks ago, the Scientific Management Review board at the NIH voted to create the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. The essential task of the new center, says NIH chief Francis Collins, will be to take scientific discoveries--which they typically finance--and push them along to the clinic. At that point, pharma and biotech companies can step in and license the therapies from the NIH. If everything works as planned, the new center could be up and running next fall.

The U.S. Treasury Department, meanwhile, got into the act this year with a $1 billion tax credit program. For most biotechs, the credit quickly translated into a sizable research grant. And the money was showered across the land.

The industry owes thanks to BIO for helping spearhead the grant/tax program, gaining its passage along with a landmark piece of legislation that provides a lengthy span of market exclusivity for biologics.

Consumer advocates hated it, but the special market status won by the industry was a coup that will deliver dividends for years to come. Love them or hate them, BIO knows how to push legislation that helps foster the industry. And that's why the industry association will face high expectations in the year ahead.