Will lawmakers double down on popular R&D awards?

Few government biotech initiatives have been greeted with more enthusiasm than the 2010 Therapeutic Discovery Project, which divvied up a billion dollars among thousands of drug developers to help fund research work. Now a bill has been introduced that will attempt to duplicate that every year through 2017, promising billions more in new awards.

This new bill--from Representatives Susan A. Davis (D-CA) and Allyson Y. Schwartz (D-PA)--"provides a $1 billion credit for each fiscal year 2011 through 2017 and allows the program's qualified investments from 2009 through 2015," says BIO President Jim Greenwood. The way the original project was structured biotech companies with less than 250 employees could qualify for tax credits if they made money or convert that to a simple cash award if they didn't. And for most of the 3,000 companies that competed for the money, it offered a delightful windfall.

Greenwood has made this initiative a priority for the trade group. But when the initial once-off bill was passed--providing an average award of $217,108--lawmakers were looking for ways to stimulate the economy. In Massachusetts alone biotech companies scored $126 million in grants, with Alnylam, for example, getting $2 million for eight projects. At the time giving money to biotechs seemed like a great way to boost the number of good jobs available in a recession. Now the focus in Congress is on cutting spending, which may explain why there's no Republican tied to this announcement.

- here's the release from BIO