Texas Cancer Agency Halts New Grants

Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) yesterday asked the state's embattled $3 billion cancer research agency to stop awarding grants until it addresses concerns about its procedures. The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) responded by announcing a moratorium on new grants.

CPRIT's problems became public in May, when then-chief scientific officer Alfred Gilman, a Nobel Prize-winner, quit in protest over the agency's scientific review procedures. Two other top agency officials, including CPRIT's executive director, have left in the past few weeks amid new allegations—and civil and criminal investigations—into how the agency made certain commercialization awards.

In a letter received yesterday, Perry and two other state leaders asked CPRIT to "fully address the concerns that have been raised about its processes and operations prior to future grants being awarded." CPRIT's oversight committee responded that it "agrees" and is imposing "a moratorium on CPRIT grants. … These issues need to be resolved to restore public confidence in CPRIT." Ongoing grants will not be affected, the agency said.

CPRIT spokesperson Ellen Read said that agency staff members are seeking "clarification" on what the moratorium means for proposals already in the pipeline. That includes those from a request for applications for early translational awards that closed on 14 December.

CPRIT has funded 502 grants totaling $841 million for research, commercialization, and prevention since 2009. The Texas state legislature is scheduled to hear testimony today about whether the agency should be funded in 2014 to 2015, according to The Texas Tribune.