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49 Wisconsin biotech companies awarded $13 million in federal grants

Forty-nine Wisconsin companies have been awarded more than $13 million in grants from the Internal Revenue Service as part of a federal program to spur small-company job growth and advance the nation's competitiveness in life sciences.

Forty-nine Wisconsin companies have been awarded more than $13 million in grants from the Internal Revenue Service as part of a federal program to spur small-company job growth and advance the nation's competitiveness in life sciences.

Another company, Echmetrix LLC, received $133,000 in federal tax credits under the Qualifying Therapeutic Discovery Project.

The project was part of health care reform legislation passed earlier this year and allocated $1 billion of tax credits and grants. It is administered by the IRS in conjunction with the National Institutes of Health. No single company could receive more than $5 million.

The Journal Sentinel reported previously that at least 14 Wisconsin firms were receiving grants. The full list was released Wednesday.

California companies pulled in the most money from the program, receiving $278 million of grants and $3.3 million of tax credits, according to the IRS website. Massachusetts companies were next, with $126 million of grants and $2.6 million of tax credits.

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Madison-based Cellular Dynamics International Inc., the company founded by embryonic stem cell pioneer James Thomson and others, received $977,918 in grants. That was the most of any Wisconsin-based company. Known as CDI, the company sells stem cell-derived heart cells to Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche and others to help them test the toxicity of drugs. It is developing stem cell-derived liver, nerve and blood vessel cells.

CDI's cells have all the properties of embryonic stem cells, but they are not grown from embryos. CDI grows its cells from individual skin or blood samples from adults. Its breakthrough process allows it to produce large quantities of high-quality, pure human heart cells consistently, the company has said.

Other Wisconsin companies that received large grants were: FluGen Inc., Madison, $694,610; Deltanoid Pharmaceuticals Inc., Madison, $677,379; Mortara Instrument, Milwaukee, $488,959; Pharming Healthcare Inc., DeForest, $488,958; and Cytometix Inc., Milwaukee, $408,224.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization lauded the program as a "lifeline" for biotech companies during uncertain times when capital markets are frozen.

"In the past three years, the number of public U.S. biotechnology companies has shrunk by a third. The high demand and intense interest from companies applying for the program strongly demonstrates the need to extend and expand this promising program," Jim Greenwood, the trade group's president and chief executive, said in a statement.

Copyright (c) 2010, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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