A slew of Triangle biotech companies won a small share of a $1 billion federal giveaway announced Wednesday by the Obama Administration to promote medical research.
North Carolina’s portion of the federal grants, about $36 million, will be divided between more than 150 companies across the state. The grants were awarded for finding new therapies for unmet medical needs, for advancing a cure for cancer by 2040, and for cutting health care costs.
Many of the North Carolina recipients received grants up to $244,479 for expenses incurred in 2009 and again for the same amount for expenses incurred this year. Because more than 5,000 companies applied nationwide, far exceeded the expected number of applicants, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spread the awards among some 3,000 companies that qualified for the awards.
Pozen, a Chapel Hill biotech with 30 employees, won three grants totaling about $733,000. One of the grants was awarded for the company’s work on Vimovo, a pain reliever that is now past the research and development phase and under commercial development by AstraZenaca.
Pozen also received grants for ongoing research to reduce the gastric toxicity of aspirin in cardiac patients who use aspirin as a heart treatment.
“This is a small piece of what we spent on these programs,” said Bill Hodges, Pozen’s chief financial officer. “We’ll reinvest it in what we’re doing.”
The grants were part of the Affordable Care Act, which supporters touted as health care reform and critics dubbed Obamacare during the contentious debate that led up to the partisan vote for the program. The controversial health care legislation included a number of financial sweeteners to make the measure palatable to the health-care industry.
Companies in 47 states and the District of Columbia received the grants. The grants went to small and mid-sized biotech firms with no more than 250 employees.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said during a press conference that recipients can use the grant money to offset wages, lab costs, medical supplies or generally financing their operations.
Icagen, a biotech in Durham with 50 employees, also got $733,000 for three ongoing projects to develop medications for epilepsy and pain.
“It’s a significant amount of capital for us,” said CEO Richard Katz. “It’s safe to say that as a result of this grant we’re going to be better positioned to continue our ongoing research.”
Other local recipients included Aldagen, AlphaVax Human Resources, Asklepios BioPharmaceuticals, BioDelivery Sciences International, Biolex Therapeutics, BioMarck Pharmaceuticals, Cempra Pharmaceuticals, CeNeRx BioPharma, Chimerix, Cognosci, Dara Pharmaceuticals, Furiex Pharmaceuticals, Inspire Pharmaceuticals, Liposcience, Liquidia Technologies, Sicel Technologies, Synecor, TransEnterix and Viamet Pharmaceuticals.