12:00 AM
Nov 01, 2012
 |  BC Innovations  |  Strategy

Mess with Texas

The public spat between the scientific board and management of the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas is a case study in how commercial and scientific interests can clash when the two sides are not on the same page about how grants are distributed. The lesson is that academic grant reviewers need to be aware of a foundation's commercial development priorities in any proposal-vetting process.

The Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) is a publicly funded agency tasked with financing basic and translational cancer research and cancer prevention initiatives in the state of Texas.1 According to its charter, the organization has a broad remit to spend $3 billion over 10 years "to develop therapies, protocols, medical pharmaceuticals or procedures for the cure or substantial mitigation of all types of cancer."

Since 2009, CPRIT has spent about $760 million on 427 grants to Texas academics, community health organizations and companies, the latter of which received 11 of these grants (see "CPRIT's commercial portfolio").

According to CPRIT's rules, proposals are separated into three tracks-research, prevention and commercialization-with separate review councils that evaluate them according to distinct criteria.

Each review council selects projects to recommend for approval by CPRIT's governing board of 11 political appointees, who can in principle veto recommendations with a supermajority vote.

The Commercialization Review Councilors can informally consult their counterparts on the Scientific Review Council but have the ultimate say about which proposals to recommend for approval to CPRIT's governing board.

In May, CSO Alfred Gilman announced his intention to resign from CPRIT and publicly complained to the general media that CPRIT's management was interfering in the scientific review process.2 Gilman, emeritus professor of pharmacology at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, helped build CPRIT's Scientific Review Council and its network of academic peer reviewers who evaluate research-track proposals.

At issue was a $20 million commercialization-track grant to...

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