Created by on 06/01/2011

Last week, the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC) discussed the importance of biomedical research to U.S. competitiveness and prosperity in a hearing entitled, Driving Innovation and Job Growth through the Life Sciences Industry.” Although much of the hearing focused on ways in which the government can incentivize businesses to invest in research and development (R&D), several committee members took the opportunity to acknowledge that federally funded basic research is critical to the vitality of the life sciences industry. In his opening statement, Committee Chairman Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) said, “The federal government continues to play a significant role in funding basic research. That research increases our general base of knowledge and creates the building blocks for future products.”
Witnesses included University City Science Center President Dr. Stephen Tang, Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute President Mr. Thomas Kowalksi, Lexicon Pharmaceuticals President Dr. Arthur Sands, and National Venture Capital Association President Mr. Mark Heesen. In addition to praising the positive economic outcomes of investment in biomedical research, several on the panel urged Congress to change a provision in current law that prohibits companies majority owned by venture capital interests from participating in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. In response to a question on the issue from Senator Casey, Mr. Heesen said, “The National Institutes of Health has stated that they’re seeing the quality of their (SBIR) applications deteriorate because venture-backed companies…are precluded from taking part in the SBIR program.”
In addition to hearing the witness testimony, Senator Casey and committee ranking member Representative Kevin Brady (R-TX) announced that they plan to introduce the Life Sciences Jobs and Investment Act, which would allow taxpayers to take advantage of an increased R&D tax credit or return foreign earnings tax-free to the U.S. for investment in the R&D industry. “Investment in R&D in life sciences creates good high-paying jobs, keeps the U.S. on the cutting edge of global competitiveness, and enhances the quality of life not only for Americans, but for people everywhere,” noted Representative Brady. A webcast of the hearing is available on the JEC website.