As part of a push to strengthen America’s manufacturing and high-tech sectors, the CEO of a South Brunswick biotechnology company attended Tuesday's State of the Union Address by President Barack Obama as a guest of U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-12).
Maxwell Stock, President and CEO Signum Biosciences in Monmouth Junction, began his company with a $1 million small business innovative research grant. Signum is currently developing therapeutic agents for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and other neurodegenerative diseases.
"(The grants) were instrumental for the company to progress the technology forward," Stock said. "The genesis of the technology was sponsored by an academic NIH (National Institute of Health) grant and was funded by NIH through the developmental path."
Stock was joined as a guest of Rep. Holt by Abhay Joshi, the president and CEO of Discovery Semiconductors, Inc. of Ewing.
Both guests were praised by Holt for their work to transform federal support from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and other grant programs into new jobs, new products, and breakthrough medical treatments.
"Neither company would exist if not for the SBIR," Holt said. "These are high-tech, high paying jobs for skilled people.
Stock, of Rocky Hill, employs 12 people at Signum, as they seek to find treatment solutions for neurodegenerative diseases, which is vital given the size of the population of baby boomers soon to hit the prime years when diseases like Alzheimer's are more prevalent.
"There is a real crisis looming in the U.S.," Stock said. "50 percent of people 80 and above get Alzheimer's, so as the population ages this looming health care crisis needs funding by the government."
President Obama touted the addition of 3.2 million private sector jobs over the last 22 months in the country. Holt echoed the belief that this is a time to invest and build rather than slash and cut programs.
Holt said he believes that there are two warring factions on Capitol Hill, one who believes the country must cut its way through the recession by firing teachers and police officers, and slashing Medicare. He said the other faction, including himself and Obama, feels the country needs to invest in programs that build for the future, according to Holt.
"We've invested in education, new ideas and innovation," Holt said. "We're creating jobs to last decades. That's what the President is talking about."
"We're not only creating jobs that didn't exist 10 years ago, we're creating jobs that couldn't have existed 10 years ago. Not by being wealthy and getting tax giveaways, but by taking advantage of programs through federally provided research."
Holt promoted a series of bills he introduced that he said will continue to encourage research and development and spur technological innovation.
The “Creating Jobs From Innovative Small Businesses Act” (H.R. 133) would establish a temporary 20 percent tax credit for investments in research-intensive small businesses.
The “Create Jobs by Expanding the R&D Tax Credit Act” (H.R. 132) would boost the most common form of the federal R&D tax credit, which would create 162,000 jobs in the short-term and increase the GDP by $90 billion, according to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.
The Permanent R&D Tax Credit Bill (H.R. 134) would return $2 in private research investment for every dollar spent. The credit has never been made permanent, "creating uncertainty among many research-intensive businesses," according to Holt.
Holt also introduced legislation to provide full-time elementary and secondary STEM teachers with a refundable tax credit for 10 percent of their undergraduate tuition, up to $1,000 in any taxable year. The tax credit increases to $1,500 for STEM teachers who are teaching in underserved areas, Holt said.
"Rather than wring our hands and say times are tough let's wait for things to get better, we can do and we should do things to improve the quality of life," Holt said.
Stock, who moved his company to Monmouth Junction in 2004, called the area a "hotbed of innovation." He said late Tuesday afternoon that he was grateful for the chance to attend the State of the Union.
"I'm thrilled," he said. "I feel honored to be there and I'm very excited."