In a letter released yesterday, NIH director Elias A. Zerhouni asked Small Business Administration chief Hector V. Barreto to expand SBIR funding eligibility to biotech firms that are majority-owned by venture capitalists, noting the current rule "disqualifies many highly deserving entities." A Biotechnology Industry Organization official noted "our industry and the companies we represent under the current rules are excluded from participation in the program" and are the companies "the NIH most wants to work with in the program." The SBA has stated it will decide on any change in the rules by the end of the year.

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