A key item on the biotechnology industry's wish list is one step closer to coming true, as a bill to extend a popular tax credit program was introduced Thursday in the U.S. Senate.
Sen. Robert Menendez introduced legislation to extend the $1 billion Therapeutic Discovery Tax Credit program, a competitive program that gives tax breaks to biotech companies developing breakthrough technologies. The program is meant to address a paradox in the biotechnology industry: Biotech firms are making historic scientific breakthroughs, but their ability to fund those breakthroughs remains hampered by the sluggish state of the overall economy.
"The biotechnology industry is critical to America's competitiveness in the 21st century economy," said Menendez, in a press release. "Biotech labs employ dedicated scientists and researchers, whose discoveries could lead to a groundbreaking cures for cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's, or HIV/AIDS."
The new bill is an extension of a $1 billion program launched in 2010. That program resulted in 133 New Jersey companies receiving $53 million in tax credits and loans. Nationwide, nearly 3,000 companies received funding.
Debbie Hart, president of the biotech trade group BioNJ, said the industry has been lobbying for an extension or expansion ever since the original bill was passed. She said the need remains.
"The fundamental financial factors that the program helps to address -- the critical need for financing of research programs at start-up and early-stage companies -- has not changed," she said. "It has always been the biggest hurdle facing the industry and in this economic climate, the need has become even more critical."
The extension includes a number of changes to the program to make it more competitive and ensure that the most important projects rise to the top of the list.
The bill comes a month after the Biotechnology Industry Organization (the national trade group) gave Menendez its Legislator of the Year award and just days after Menendez officially kicked off his re-election campaign. Menendez was also named BIO Legislator of the Year in 2010. He faces Republican state Sen. Joe Kyrillos in November. Kyrillos has the strong backing of Gov. Chris Christie.