The state's biotech tax credits drew more than 180 applications within three minutes of the window opening for the $8 million available this fiscal year, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development said Thursday.

The credits go to investors pumping money into fledgling Maryland biotechnology firms in need of capital. The credits will be handed out on a first-come, first-served basis to those that qualify — thus the rush.

Initial credit certifications will be issued within 30 calendar days, DBED said.

Before the state began accepting applications online last year, company representatives had to line up in advance of the July 1 start date.

"The program's popularity demonstrates its success," said Mark A. Vulcan, program manager of tax incentives for the economic development agency.

The Biotechnology Investment Incentive Tax Credit is refundable, meaning investors get cash back if the amount is larger than their taxes due — if any — to Maryland. A company that invests $25,000 to $500,000 in a Maryland biotech receives a tax credit worth half that amount. The aim is to reduce investors' risk and raise interest in providing seed and early-stage capital to Maryland biotechnology firms.

Nineteen biotechs benefited from tax-credit-fueled investments last year, the state said.