September 9, 2009
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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.
February 28, 2009
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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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
February 27, 2009
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GTC Biotherapeutics, which recently saw ATryn approved, announced a collaboration agreement with AgResearch Limited, a New Zealand Crown Research Institute.
AgResearch will develop genetically modified animals capable of producing the building blocks for “biosimilar” versions of existing products that will begin coming off U.S. patent in 2014.
The double combo shot: the success of the collaboration depends on
- a continuing trend of GE animal approvals, as well as
- the successful introduction of a biosimilars pathway in the U.S., (which is called for in Obama’s budget).
February 25, 2009
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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
A kick in the teeth for: