The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) was founded in 2007 and assured $3 billion of state funding over the next 10 years. Since 2009, the organization trails only the National Institutes of Health as the nation's largest distributor of cancer research grants. However, several prominent scientists have resigned from their positions at CPRIT and have suggested the agency may be perverting its scientific mission and focusing too heavily on the commercialization of medical innovations.
According to the Washington Post, CPRIT has traditionally allocated 15 percent of all funding toward prescription drug development, medical device patent licensing and similar commercialization projects intended to both stimulate the local economy and get new innovations into the hands of doctors and patients sooner.
In May, chief scientific officer, and Nobel Laureate, Dr. Alfred Gilman resigned from CPRIT in protest of a $20 million grant that he said was approved without adequate review of its scientific merits.
"A friend of mine experienced in these matters told me this is the way it always works when you put a large amount of money on the table," Gilman told the Houston Chronicle. "The vultures lie low for a couple years, figuring out how the system works. Then they come in for the feast. The [$20 million project] was the first course of that feast."
This month, seven more members of the institute's scientific review committee have followed in Gilman's footsteps and resigned after expressing their dismay with what they see as politics being prioritized over medical progress. According to the Chronicle, state legislators have already commissioned an audit and will likely increase oversight prior to the next round of funding.