Challenge Grants

Meeting with Congresswoman Susan Davis’ Staff on Small Business Grants

Allele Biotech’s CEO Jiwu Wang participated in a meeting between a local biotech business organization “SBIR San Diego” and a representative of local Congresswoman Susan Davis. We had the opportunity to explain our positions on government funding for small business, particularly in the biotech area. We want to see that the SBIR law be extended in its form that is most aligned with its original intention of helping small business innovative research that would not have been otherwise possible.

As one of the participating SBIR members who told each company’s own “story”, Dr. Wang described that Allele Biotech was founded by 5 SBIR grants in 99 when he was still a postdoc at UCSD. Dr. The grants helped the company make its first product and deal by securing patent positions in one of most important research fields in the last decade, RNAi, and out-licensing the rights to Promega. Allele Biotech has since developed its own marketing and sales force, reinvested in formulating viral based RNAi with state-of-the-art fluorescent markers. Allele is currently waiting to start a phase II SBIR project for the NCI on cancer diagnostics.

Coinciding with President Obama’s announcement of federal programs to help small business today, the meeting had an overtone reflecting the general mood about economy’s direction in the nation. Like many research-oriented biotech companies, Allele’s scientists plan to apply for the Stimulus funds through the NIH’s Challenge Grants, in the areas of induced stem cells (iPS) and cancer stem calls (CSCs), which are Allele’s next new product line focus.

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NIH Challenge Grant, First Released Program Based on the Stimulus Fund

At least 200 million dollars will be channeled through a new, one off mechanism called the Challenge Grants that were designed as jumpstart funds for 2-year projects. The review process will be quicker than normal; the start date will be by the end of September 09. Among the topics are 15 areas designated as Specific Challenge Topics by the NIH, and high priority topics that individual institute such as the NCI added by their choices. For instance, the Clinical Proteomic Technologies for Cancer program, of which Allele is a participant through a cancer marker antibody development project, is running several proteomic related topics that the Challenge Grants will fund.

Many new areas such as iPS, cancer stem cells, and resource development for stem cells are among the selected topics. All domestic institutions, academic or for-profit, are encouraged to apply. This announcement came a couple of weeks after the passage of the stimulus bill, from the NIH that does not yet have a permanent director or a HHS boss, one has to commend it as efficient work with focus. We are expecting that more programs are to come every week here on out until it becomes clear how all ARRA (The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 or the stimulus fund) will be spent in the biomedical research field.

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Monday, March 9th, 2009 NIH Budget and You No Comments