SBIR Program in Danger of Dissolution

By a process of stealth evasion of detection, a sentence was inserted by yet unknown congress persons, SBIR & STTR were expressly stricken from the NIH portion of the stimulus bill just signed into law by President Obama, effectively removing almost $250 million in SBIR/STTR award funding that is badly needed by hundreds or even thousands of companies.

There has been a sentiment among academic colleagues that removing the SBIR/STTR programs will give 2.5% more money to university labs. That is probably a shared view by most professors; exceptions may include those who also function as PIs on STTR projects (STTR was created to allow for such cases) or consultants on SBIR projects through companies they often co-founded. For graduate students and postdocs, who may agree with such view because they too want more grant money to the labs, it is also important to know that a majority of the students and postdocs will work for SBIR supported or eligible companies. Biotech industry has never been a labor-intensive industry and therefore, even more than the 80% of general US population who are employed by small businesses, workers in this industry are likely to have a small business as their job provider. And there is nothing wrong with that—small companies are still the engine for innovation and model for efficiency and flexibility.

On March 20, just a few weeks from now, the SBIR program may stop to exist if a law that created it is not renewed. There are strong head winds for its renewal from special interest groups that want the money to be spent on large companies or venture-backed companies, because they are in need of cash infusion these days. SBIR is at risk. Considering the thousands upon thousands of layoff by the big pharma players in just the last few weeks, it is not difficult to understand their difficulties. The question is how effective the money can be used to provide jobs and create new areas for development.

If you want to have your voice heard, you can look up your congress representative or senators to tell them what you think. If you are going to do it, do it now.

1. Call your Senators, both their local and DC offices.
2. Call your Representative, both their local and DC offices.
3. Go to their web sites and use the email or webmail links to send them your message.

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2 Comments to SBIR Program in Danger of Dissolution

Indeed! This stealthy exclusion was a deliberate attempt to avoid giving small businesses a piece of the NIH’s Stimulus money to compete for on a level playing field. No legislator would have come up with this on his or her own. We’re digging deep on this, and we will find out who perpetrated this outrage. Full story is on my Blog ( If you find out something relevant, please contact me.

On the SBIR Reauthorization issue, we are pressing for a Continuing Resolution to extend the sunset date to the end of the current fiscal year (at least) so that we’ll have the time for a proper debate. Whatever side you’re on, get behind this effort. See the SBIR Reauthorization section on my website ( for issues discussion and a template letter with links to congressional contact data.

Thanks! Fred Patterson – The SBIR Coach.

February 25, 2009

Thanks Coach! The information in your comment is important and I wish more colleagues of ours would know about the situation. I think your blog is one of the best places for getting updated information. We feel that this is a good cause and a battle worth fighting. Our San Diego group has received a formal letter from congressional representative Bilbray in response to one of our SBIR leaders here, showing understanding and support of biotech research. We will focus on the SBIR aspect of the nation’s overall funding strategy.

Jiwu Wang, Ph.D.
CEO, Allele Biotech

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