Banking Commerce and Insurance

Funding for biotech startups advanced

Lawmakers advanced a bill March 28 that would provide financial assistance to the state’s bioscience industry.

Sen. Adam Morfeld
Sen. Adam Morfeld

LB641, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld, would create the Bioscience Innovation Program under the Business Innovation Act. The bill would create a fund to provide financial assistance to bioscience-related businesses in the state.

Senators voted 30-5 to adopt a Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee amendment that would transfer to the bioscience fund the money received as loan repayments from the Nebraska Progress Loan Fund as authorized by the federal Small Business Credit Initiative Act.

Morfeld said the state expects to receive $2.4 million over the next three years in leftover funds from the federal program, which is ending. The growth of high-wage, high-skill jobs in the biosciences is key to expanding Nebraska’s economy, he said.

“But in order for this sector to grow, Nebraska must advance priorities that advance innovation entrepreneurship,” Morfeld said.

Sen. Matt Williams of Gothenburg spoke in support of the bill, saying it would help kick-start new biotechnology companies, which generally need large amounts of capital.

“I would submit that this rather small investment of $2 million in existing cash funds is that type of small investment that can lead to larger benefits in the future,” he said.

Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus opposed the bill, saying it does not include a review process by which the Legislature can determine whether the funding is effective. Additionally, he said, the Legislature’s Bioscience Steering Committee, created last year, has not yet completed a strategic plan for expanding the bioscience economy in Nebraska.

“What are we doing when we’re training businesses that the first place they should stop for a little extra boost is at the Legislature?” he said.

Senators adopted a technical amendment and voted 31-2 to advance LB641 to select file.

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