The Cross-Border Biotech Blog

Biotechnology, Health and Business in Canada, the United States and Worldwide

Tag Archives: Stimulus

U.S. Therapeutic Discovery Stimulus Reaches Biotechs in Canada, Israel, Germany

As part of the health reform bill, the U.S. launched a $1 billion Therapeutic Discovery Project tax credit/grant stimulus program. The program announced grant recipients this week, deploying $1 billion just over 7 months after the law was passed, and 5 months after the IRS guidelines were released implementing the project.

A full list of recipients has been posted by the IRS, and interestingly includes a “foreign” recipients section comprising: Canada’s Enobia Pharma, Germany’s mtm laboratories, and Israel’s Pluristem Therapeutics (Nasdaq: PSTI). Canadian biotechs with U.S. affiliates also reported receiving grants: Allon Therapeutics, Ondine Biomedical, and Neuraxon, so far.

The massive influx of cash has produced a predictable call for second helpings, while here in Ontario we’re still waiting for a first deployment from the $7 million announced at the end of April.

Dani Peters Featured in California Healthcare Institute Podcast on Strategies for Government Funding

The California Healthcare Institute has a new podcast up that features Dani Peters (this blog’s government relations expert) talking about

“opportunities that now exist to find alternative forms of funding from government sources and tips for navigating the complexities of Washington and the new political landscape to help entrepreneurs find funding sources that were not previously available.”

Here is the podcast intro page.  Check it out!

U.S. Stimulus Stimulates Health Care and Academic Jobs

The NPR Health Blog reports that in the cloud of U.S. unemployment numbers (pdf) there is a high-tech silver lining: the health care and education sectors actually added about 52,000 jobs in August.  It cites examples from a Boston Globe article that highlights stimulus-stimulated activity in Massachusetts research labs.

Also note this piece at GenomeWeb, which quotes Leerink Swann analyst Isaac Ro, who includes “stimulus funding” as one of the “theme[s]” justifying a higher target and rating for Millipore (NYSE: MIL).

Check out the birds’ eye view of NIH ARRA grants and zoom and click to get all the details for your favo(u)rite institution.

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What is the State of Canada’s Biotechnology Industry?

There have been a lot of opinions over the last couple of weeks, with little consensus.

On the pessimistic side:

  1. E&Y’s annual biotechnology report was released a week ago, and the reported taglines ranged from “time of reckoning” to “biotech business model crumbles“. 
  2. The first report from Canada’s Science, Technology and Innovation Research Council said that Canadian businesses are stingy in funding research and development.

On the other hand:

  1. The BIO SmartBrief story on E&Y’s report noted the E&Y data showing that mergers and acquisitions had a near-record year in 2008, amounting to $28.5 billion in the U.S. alone.
  2. And, Rx&D’s response to the STIC report notes that pharma R&D investment, MaRS and Montreal’s biotech/pharmaceutical cluster are all highlights of the report.
  3. Finally, BIO President and CEO James C. Greenwood said that most biotech firms likely will survive the financial crisis despite a shortage in cash assets and the lack of investments brought about by the deep freeze in initial public offerings.

My take?

E&Y’s 2008 data is consistent with the PwC-BIOTECanada report and likely reflects extra pessimism because it cuts off before the latest stimulus investments, including over $1 billion in Ontario and Québec.  As that money, plus the Ontario Venture Capital Fund, gets deployed, I think Greenwood is likely to be right and things will start to look up. 

Although Q1′s venture capital and private equity numbers still look grim, the Monday Deal Review is showing increasing activity the last few weeks and even a few offerings by public companies.

Obama Budget 2010: HHS Highlights

The Obama Administration delivered its FY2010 Budget to Congress yesterday. Among the highlights of the Department of Health and Human Services Budget:

  • $511,000,000 increase to FDA’s budget with $259 million for food safety inspections, surveillance etc.
  • $584,000,000 for influenza preparedness, including purchase and development of vaccines, antivirals, diagnostics and supplies
  • $275,000,000 for advanced development of biodefense countermeasures (antivirals, vaccines, diagnostics)
  • $30,000,000,000 for NIH which is flat over last year, but remember NIH recieved $10bn in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
  • $44,000,000 for Office of National Coordinator for Health IT.  The budget projects a $432,000,000 spend in Recovery Act Health IT activities in 2009 and an $809,000,000 spend in 2010 (National Coordinator Office received $2bn in Recovery Act mostly for competitive grants for healthcare providers to incorporate health IT).

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Trend Update — Electronic Medical Records: View From HIMSS

The 2009 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference was in Chicago this week, and was obviously energized by the stimulus money in the U.S. and the budget allocation in Canada, which have greatly increased the available funding for Electronic Medical Records.

There’s a great overview of trends at HIMSS from Dr. John D. Halamka, chief information officer and dean for technology at Harvard Medical School, at his blog: Life as a Healthcare CIO.

His headlines: Stimulus; Economy; Software as a Service; Security; Open Source; PHR; Appliances for HIE; Home Healthcare Care/Telemedicine; Performance Measurement and Outcomes; and Decision Support. 

Read the whole thing.  Read our other electronic medical records posts.

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Electronic Medical Records Update: Walmart Solution, Google Problem

When we identified electronic medical records as a trend in 2009, it was before $19 billion of the stimulus was allocated to implementing EMR.  With that money on the table, the movement toward wide scale implementation has only accelerated:

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Stimulus Funding from NIH!

On Wednesday the National Institutes of Health published its Request for Applications (RFA), allocating $200 million provided in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  The deadline for submissions is April 27, and requests for funding cannot exceed $1 million over two years. Applications must come from U.S. institutions and organizations, but  there are no apparent restrictions on sourcing technology from non-U.S. partners.

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Harold Varmus on The Daily Show

Harold Varmus (former NIH head, Nobel Prize winner, co-chair of Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, etc.) was on the Daily Show last night.

He put in a good pitch for:

  1. Democratic administrations
  2. Basic research
  3. Stimulus job creation through research funding
  4. His new book
  5. The Walrus

Click here to watch in Canada.

Click here to watch in the U.S.

 

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Allocating Spending to Support R&D: UK, U.S. and Canadian Approaches

The U.S., Canada and the UK have all acknowledged the central importance of R&D even in these recessionary times.  However, the three national governments have decided to focus their spending on different steps of the R&D equation:

  1. Education: UK Takes the Long View
    British PM Gordon Brown, in a speech this week, identified three priorities: research, education and training, and public discourse.  However, only one of the three, education, was the subject of specific increased targets and spending:  retraining to increase the number of science teachers, a goal to double the number of pupils in state schools taking ‘triple science’, and a new Diploma program.  The U.S. and Canada have increased funding for graduate studies, but the UK effort is focused at an earlier stage, to rebuild the interest and capabilities of domestic graduates. 
  2. Publicly-Funded Research: U.S. Takes the Lead
    The focus of the U.S. R&D spending increases has absolutely been on research.  The increases for the NIH and NSF in the stimulus and the budget will go largely to increasing the volume of publicly-funded research.  PM Brown’s speech also vowed to protect funding for science from competing demands for Government support during the downturn, but did not propose increases over the existing 10-year plan.  Canada’s budget actually cut research funding across the three main granting agencies.
  3. Commercialization: Canada Takes Off 
    Canada’s focus was on commercialization.  The 2009 budget included $200 million allocated to the National Research Council’s IRAP program — $170 million to double the program’s contributions to companies, and $30 million to help companies hire over 1,000 new post-secondary graduates.  It also provided significant additional funding to BDC.  The only comparable spending in the U.S. was the $400 million for ARPA-E, which is allocated to energy programs, and supports research as well as commercialization.  PM Brown’s speech recognized the importance of maintaining the country’s struggling start-ups, and he has reached out to big pharma, but promised no specific action.

What’s still missing:  Stimulating Output

  • Despite calls in the UK, the U.S. and Canada, there have been no major tax policy changes enacted in this round of budgets and bailouts that ease the burden on, or return money to, early-stage technology companies.  Ontario has actually taken some steps in this direction with the Ontario Venture Capital Fund and the Ontario Tax Exemption for Commercialization.
  • Nor have there been many changes that increase the value of outputs: in the bio/pharma area, the UK has probably moved farthest in this direction, with upcoming reforms of the National Institute on Comparative Effectiveness (NICE), while the U.S. has seen decreasing FDA approvals and is allocating new comparative effectiveness funds.  On the other hand, approvals of GE animals, support for personalized medicine and big spending on electronic medical records will provide support to specific industry initiatives.

Stay tuned to our Bailout Page for updates.

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Bright Spot for Canada in NIH Gains?

You may not know this, but Canadian researchers can compete for NIH extramural funds, and they do so quite successfully.  I reviewed the 2008 data from the NIH budget site, which shows that Canadian researchers were awarded $47.4 million in 2008 (out of a total of $212.4 million total awarded outside the U.S.).  Hopefully this amount will increase in 2009-2010 as the stimulus and budget money for the NIH is allocated.  Considering the research funding cut in the Harper budget was $113 million, the NIH funds are a significant contribution to the Canadian landscape.

Some geographic breakdown: Toronto (69 awards, $18.4 million) and Vancouver (37 awards, $8.7 million) are the largest recipients.

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Wednesday Brain Dump: February 25, 2009

The question this week: a shot in the arm or a kick in the teeth?

A shot in the arm for:

  • Fewer shots in the arm! (har) 
    • British Columbia is the first jurisdiction in North America to offer a children’s vaccine called Infanrix-hexa™, which contains six immunizations in one, resulting in three fewer needles in the overall B.C. infant vaccine schedule, and
    • With the discovery of a constant region of flu virus protein hemagglutinin, a universal flu vaccine may be possible (no more yearly shots);
  • The Naval Surface Warfare Center in White Oak, a suburb of Washington, where the FDA is spending $1.15 billion to consolidate its offices and labs and to anchor a new biotech hub;
  • Pine Island, near Rochester, Minnesota, which could soon be the home to a new biotech research, development and manufacturing park with the help of up to $900 million in funding reportedly pledged by Steve Burrill.  Funding announcements also from Maryland and Pittsburgh;
  • Sustainable agriculture, when the White House announced its nominee for second-in-command at USDA: Kathleen Merrigan of Tufts University, who had been a top choice of the Cornucopia Institute to run USDA’s National Organic Program;
  • The National Science Foundation, from the stimulus (a $3 billion boost) and the budget (a 6.7% increase, to $6.49 billion);
  • Multiple Sclerosis, with Merck, Novartis, Teva, Biogen Idec and Sanofi Aventis all planning to release new oral therapeutics between now and 2012;
  • Conflict of interest disclosure, with a new editorial in PLoS Medicine;
  • Deterrence, with the arrest of four animal-rights extremists;
  • Organ failure biomarkers,
    • with the discovery of liver toxicity-associated MicroRNAs, and
    • with the injection by Pfizer Canada of $1 million to the PROOF Centre to fund research into vital organ failure biomarkers; and
  • Aliens.

A kick in the teeth for:

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NIH Stimulus Spending

Some good info from ScienceInsider about how NIH is planning to allocate the stimulus money.  It looks like the vast majority will go to existing grants and already-submitted applications.

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Biotech Bailout: Maryland Ask

At a news conference yesterday reported in the Washington Business Journal and picked up by BIO SmartBrief, a group in Maryland expressed their hope that Maryland’s biotech tax credit program, under which

investors receive a tax credit equal to 50 percent of the money they spend

would get the $6 million boost to $12 million initially pledged by Gov. Martin O’Malley (before the budget process), once the State receives the federal stimulus funds from the federal bill.

To qualify for the credit, the company must be based in Maryland, have fewer than 50 employees and be in business less than 10 years.

Interesting that the science funding in the stimulus bill could end up increasing even over the direct amounts via the transfers to States.

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Comparative Effectiveness Stimulus Stimulates Reactions

The $1.1 billion in the stimulus bill for comparative effectiveness research has, not surprisingly, generated a good deal of public attention.  Friday’s Washington Post and the front page of today’s New York Times both have stories covering the political jockeying.

Although both pieces focus on potential problems from the lack of individualization, either from libertarian or advocacy perspectives, neither has picked up our strain that personalized medicine, also favored by the Obama administration, will change the shape of the entire comparative effectiveness debate.
More on a recent example after the jump…

Stimulus Bill Originalism

Here’s where you can get the text of the conference report, if you’re in the mood.  At over $1 billion per page (780 pages, $789 billion), it should be good reading.

We compiled information on allocations to science in the stimulus bill earlier in the week.

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U.S. Stimulus Compromise (Updated)

Initial reporting (NYT, WSJ) on the bill coming out of the House-Senate conference committee this evening indicates that the $789 billion package will include most of the Bio-related provisions:

Update 10am: More details from ScienceInsider based on Pelosi’s fact sheet:

  • The Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which supports US physical science, will receive $1.6 billion.
  • $400 million will be provided to fund a new mini agency within DOE called the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy. Obama’s energy secretary, Steve Chu, is a fan. Now congress has bestowed their blessing — and big money –on his dream energy program.
  • NASA will get $1 billion including $400 million for climate change research.
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology will receive $580 million.
  • The National Science Foundation would receive the full $3 billion increase that the House had passed last month. That’s a 50% boost to its $6 billion budget. The breakdown of that number is not clear, but the House version contained $2 billion more for research grants; $900 million for three infrastructure programs, including a revived $200 million extramural facilities competition; and $100 million for two education programs.

Update 5pm:

  • The $3 billion in NSF funding breaks down as follows: $2.5 billion for research (peer-reviewed proposals); $100 million for the university research instrumentation program; and $400 million for national labs.
  • The NIST money is for infrastructure: $220 million for lab equipment and $360 million for facilities.
  • USDA gets $850 million for infrastructure.
  • NOAA gets $600 million for facilities and equipment.

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Money = Jobs

As various constituencies make their arguments for bailout funding, the supporting materials have a common, unsurprising, theme: Money = Jobs.  How many jobs?  A collection of the data we’ve found after the jump:

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