Texas Cancer Research Board Approves Slate of Delayed Grants

One of the key issues in an uproar over grantmaking that has roiled Texas's $3 billion cancer research fund receded yesterday when the agency's board approved $39 million in research grants that it had set aside earlier this year.

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) became embroiled in controversy last spring when its oversight committee, after a brief review by business experts, approved a $20 million incubator grant mostly for a drug discovery center at the University of Texas (UT) MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. CPRIT's chief scientific officer, Nobelist Alfred Gilman, announced his resignation in May, arguing that the work of the MD Anderson center was research, not commercialization, and the proposal should have gone through a scientific review.

Gilman was also upset over the board's decision not to fund seven awards totaling $39 million for multi-investigator projects that had been approved by peer reviewers. Gilman and CPRIT's Scientific Review Council expressed concern that the board withheld approval because most of the money was going to UT Southwestern, Gilman's former institution. This suggested a "bias" that "we vigorously deny," the reviewers said.

Now the board has signed off on the grants as part of $114 million in new research and prevention awards. "It is good that these highly regarded … applications have finally been funded," Gilman, who's staying until October, said in an e-mail today to ScienceInsider. He's also happy that the board approved recruitment packages to bring 20 more "superb scientists" to Texas. Also yesterday, the board appointed a compliance officer—a new position—to oversee its grant review processes.

The disagreement over the MD Anderson award has not yet been settled. CPRIT announced in June that the proposal would be rereviewed by both commercial and scientific experts.