Maybe Jon Walker or some other wader-into-the-weeds of the health care bill wrote about this, although I didn’t pull up any hits in a Google search of FDL.

In addition to the much reviled 12-year data exclusivity provision included in the health reform bill (ie, the Eshoo/Hagan amendment), the new law provides a second gift to biopharma: a cool billion in tax credits or cash grants to fund early-stage diagnostic and therapeutic research by small biopharma companies.

Details on how to apply for these grants are being formulated now, and biotech companies are falling over each other to qualify for a piece of this pie. I became aware of this through the trade and business press, eg, this link.

An announcement of the issuance of guidance on qualifying for these grants appears in this message from HHS Secretary Sebelius, with details (pdf) here.

The grants apply to companies with fewer than 250 employees, which really encompasses almost all biotech firms except for those very few that blossom on their own into full-fledged pharma companies.

Seed money for innovation isn’t a bad thing in itself, but what I’m not seeing in the description of these grants is anything resembling payback or strings — eg, IP limitations in the event that funded research hits commercial paydirt. I’m certainly no expert in that field. But given the astronomical costs of biologics, some kind of giveback, eg, an easing of market exclusivity, might have been nice.

And I mean, has venture capital really dried up so drastically that a billion government dollars that might have helped ease families’ ongoing health financing burdens (notwithstanding this earth-shattering, revolutionary, etc., etc., legislation) needed to go to this purpose? Just asking, in all sincerity.