Biotech companies get $1 billion in grants

    New Jersey is the third largest recipient of new federal grants and tax credits for biotechnology companies.

    The federal government is passing out a billion dollars in grants and tax credits to biotechnology firms across the country. Companies in New Jersey and Pennsylvania received the third and fourth largest slices of the pie. WHYY’s health and science reporter Kerry Grens has more on what it means to them.

    The investments that start up companies typically rely on have been scarce in recent years. And for expensive work like coming up with a new drug, that has meant tough times for biotech.

    $52 million of a billion dollar package will head to Garden State firms developing drugs for conditions like Parkinson’s, heart disease, and erectile dysfunction. Debbie Hart, the president of the industry organization Bio New Jersey, says in recent years companies like these have struggled to attract investors.

    Hart: This is really significant. These companies, it’s a difficult road to bring a biotech drug to market and it’s difficult enough in regular times and in this economy it’s been that much worse. So this came at the right time.

    These grants from the IRS and the Department of Health and Human Services provide anywhere from 10,000 to more than a million dollars to keep companies afloat.

    Allston: It certainly is a godsend.

    Johanna Allston is the CEO of Biocapture in Doylestown. Her company received close to $200,000 to improve its technology that makes stem cells ready for injection into humans.

    Allston: In general it’s going to allow us to hire people sooner, get our program going faster and have an impact on health care more quickly than we could have without the grant.

    Dozens of Pennsylvania and New Jersey companies will split about one hundred million dollars. The size of each individual grant is small compared to the total cost it takes to get a drug to market. But Hart says the money will serve as a bridge to keep companies afloat as the economy recovers and investment money flows more freely.

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