Oklahoma biotech firms vie for funding

Under the health care reform bill, small biotech companies are eligible for health care credits or grants.

BY PAULA BURKES Published: May 30, 2010
Oklahoma's fledgling biotechnology firms are hopeful they'll get a piece of $1 billion in funding, which was tucked into the health care reform bill to help small companies speed development of lifesaving therapies.

Altheus Therapeutics Inc. and Selexys Pharmaceuticals Corp. among others plan to apply for the up to $5 million boosts — which will come in the form of tax credits on up to 50 percent of their qualifying investment costs in 2009 and 2010. For firms without enough taxable income, the U.S. Treasury will exchange credits for grants of equal dollars.

"We welcome the opportunity to have more funds to hire needed staff and accelerate products to market,” said Justin Briggs, clinical and regulatory development manager for Altheus.

Established in 2006, the firm, which employs five, is conducting clinical trials on enemas and other therapies to treat inflammatory bowel disease. More than 1 million people in the U.S. alone suffer from it, Briggs said.

The new stimulus program was a nice surprise to Rick Alvarez, chief operating officer of 3-year-old Selexys, which is developing therapies to treat Crohn's disease and sickle cell anemia. "To have a potential 50 percent reimbursement on all costs, where a year ago there was no such thing, is pretty remarkable and hopeful,” Alvarez said.

Selexys, which employs four, is conducting safety and toxicology trials on cynomolgus monkeys, treating them with an intravenous antibody that potentially prevents sickle cells from adhering to and occluding blood vessels. Researchers hope to start human clinical trials in the fourth quarter.

Oklahoma City certified public accountant David Greenwell is working with Selexys and other clients to ensure applications are compliant.

How to apply
IRS form: Internal Revenue Service Form 8942 is not yet available, but will be released by June 21.

Deadline: July 21.

• Award notification:
no later than Oct. 29.

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