Senate provision could benefit biotech industry

As the tough economy forces biotechs to halt projects or declare bankruptcy, the industry is looking to a provision in the Senate's version of the healthcare reform bill to keep research going.  

The so-called Therapeutic Tax Credit, backed by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), is intended to help companies with fewer than 250 employees pay the salaries of their scientists, continue research and even hire workers to help the companies develop new medicines, according to the Star Ledger.

The program would require companies to compete for money by submitting research projects to the federal Treasury Department. The companies would have to show how their projects lower healthcare costs or meet an unmet medical need. Tax credits will cover as much as 50 percent of the R&D expenses generated by the submitted project. The program is capped at $1 billion for the two-year period, according to the Ledger article.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization already has praised the amendment. "Emerging research-intensive biotech companies have to raise hundreds of millions of dollars during a decade-long period to bring new treatments to the market for H1N1 (swine flu), cancer, Alzheimer's, and many other unmet medical needs," BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood said last year. "Senator Menendez's amendment will advance the key goal of healthcare reform: that all Americans have access to quality healthcare, including innovative, high-quality therapies."

Menendez has said the provision also could be added to the Senate jobs bill, which President Obama urged lawmakers to pass during his State of the Union speech.

- check out the Ledger's coverage