On Friday, November 1, eight newly appointed members of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) oversight committee met for the first time.
From the very beginning, the LIVESTRONG Foundation played a leadership role in the advocacy effort to create CPRIT. In 2007, the Texas Legislature and voters approved the use of bonds for a $3 billion investment in cancer research and prevention programs in the state of Texas for 10 years.
It has been a difficult year-and-a-half for CPRIT, which has been under fire after three questionable grants surfaced last year. Grants awarded to two entities were suspended when it was discovered that the applications did not go through the proper peer review process, a CPRIT-funded clinical trials collaborative closed its doors when it was discovered that the project lacked matching funds required by law, the executive leadership at CPRIT resigned, and the agency was the subject of several difficult hearings at the Texas Capitol this session.
CPRIT reform legislation authored by Texas State Senator Jane Nelson and State Representative Jim Keffer passed overwhelmingly this session. This new law increases transparency and accountability at the agency to ensure these mistakes do not happen again. The legislation forced the resignation of the entire CPRIT oversight committee and required the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the Texas House to appoint new members.
The presiding officer of Friday’s meeting was Pete Geren from Fort Worth, a former Secretary of the Army and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives. A chairman of the oversight committee won’t be elected until the ninth, and final, member is named by the Speaker.
CPRIT is in the process of implementing recommendations made by the Texas state auditor’s report and finalizing regulations required by the new reform law. The agency received permission by the state leadership to resume grant operations when a moratorium on new grants that was placed on the agency in December 2012 was lifted last week. The new Chief Scientific Officer, Margret Kripke, has made significant progress in rebuilding the CPRIT peer review committees.
The oversight committee indicated that the interim Chief Executive Officer, Wayne Roberts, would likely be hired to lead the agency moving forward when it announced that the job vacancy would be posted for internal CPRIT candidates only.
While we were extremely disappointed to learn last year about the mismanagement and oversight problems that occurred at CPRIT, we still believe that the vast majority of grant dollars have made a tremendous impact in the fight against cancer in Texas during the past four years.
The LIVESTRONG Foundation applauds the new leadership at CPRIT for their willingness to serve, and we are confident that CPRIT will be able to rebuild trust with Texans and set a vision for the agency’s future.