Vital Signs

The federal government last month awarded $1 billion in tax credits and grants to more than 3,000 biotechnology companies across the country. The recipients will put the funds to work on projects with the potential to produce new and cost-saving therapies, support jobs and increase U.S. competitiveness.

In Middle Tennessee, eight companies received a combined $2.6 million in grants from the Qualifying Therapeutic Discovery Project Program. And though that’s a small slice of the national pie, it should serve as a reminder that Middle Tennessee’s healthcare industry has diversity and growth potential beyond its traditional hospital- and outpatient-based services cluster.

These grants were not given at random. Interested businesses with less than 250 workers had a short window of time in which to apply and make a case for why their particular project has “significant potential” to improve health, save lives and have a positive economic impact in the process.

For example, BioMimetic Therapeutics Inc. received nearly $500,000 from the program for its projects to develop orthopedic and sports medicine applications for its tissue healing and regeneration technologies. The Franklin-based company — which is moving its manufacturing operations from Europe to Middle Tennessee —is nearing Food and Drug Administration approval for its product to heal foot and ankle fusions.

Most other local companies that received funding are smaller and have a lower profile than BioMimetic. While the grants aren’t going to prompt an overnight surge in the local biotech space, the money could give the recipient companies the means to grow into sizable enterprises that draw jobs to the region and lay the groundwork for the next phase of growth in Nashville’s healthcare industry.

As Life Science Tennessee Executive Director Kriste Goad put it, the grants show that “the life science industry in Tennessee is alive and growing.” And that, too, is worth something in the national economic development game.

 

Erin Lawley is a reporter at NashvillePost.com, a sister publication of The Medical News. elawley@nashvillepost.com.