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New legislation now before President Bush could result in $37 billion in new funding over the next five years for the National Science Foundation — money that is expected to boost venture capital investments in nanotechnology and emerging biotech sectors. The legislation, which has been passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, is now headed to Bush for final review and a signature. The bill authorizes $5.5 billion in funds for 2003, rising to $9.83 billion by 2007, for the NSF, a primary source of research grants for universities and, in turn, many startup companies. The increased funding is specifically targeting research on campus and startups involved in nanotechnology and plant genome research. “I think this is simply fantastic,” said Bart Schacter, a general partner with San Francisco-based Blueprint Ventures. “The nanotech industry far more than other sectors needs a large government infusion before VCs can seriously become interested in investing in these companies.” The government’s commitment is particularly important given today’s economic climate, added Wendy Chin, managing director in Boston with ITF Global Partners, a boutique investment bank that also runs a $100 million venture capital fund. “VCs really do like to share the risk on investments these days, more so than ever before,” she said. “And they don’t want to be the only ones entering a new and cutting-edge field.” Chin pointed out that many nanotech investments are expected to take 15 years to 20 years before they are able to provide profits for their investors. The new measure would authorize $5.5 billion in funding for fiscal 2003, $6.39 billion for fiscal 2004, $7.37 billion for 2005, $8.52 billion for 2006 and $9.83 billion for 2007, according to the Congressional Quarterly. Jim Tullis, managing partner of Tullis-Dickerson & Co., a Greenwich, Conn.-based fund that targets investments in biomedical and healthcare companies across the United States, said that the government has chosen to support two sectors — nanotechnology and plant genome science — in which there is a great deal of innovation expected over the next five years. “It looks like Congress truly has their priorities in the right place,” Tullis said. �Copyright 2002, The Deal, LLC. All rights reserved.

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