CPRIT Operations Moratorium Lifted Following Reforms

Editor's note: Correction appended.

State leadership decided on Wednesday that the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas has restored enough public trust to resume grant operations and finalize remaining contracts following a review of the agency’s processes and major reforms passed in the last legislative session.

On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus lifted a moratorium on new grants placed on the agency in December 2012. 

In 2007, Texas voters approved the use of $3 billion in bonds to create CPRIT and finance cancer research and the development of cancer treatments and prevention programs for 10 years. The institute came under scrutiny last year when a state audit revealed in January that $56 million in grants had been approved without the proper peer review process. Lawmakers grilled former members of the CPRIT oversight committee during the 83rd legislative session and eventually approved Senate Bill 149, which adds more checks and balances to the agency’s grant-making processes to ensure adequate peer review. Lawmakers also budgeted $595 million for the institute in the 2014-15 biennium.

“With the new oversight committee and critical reforms in place, CPRIT can continue its life-saving work with greater transparency, accountability and integrity,” Perry said in a statement. “The research and prevention efforts supported by CPRIT have the potential to make a meaningful impact in the fight against cancer. As important as this work is, it must be done in a way that ensures the trust and confidence of the people of Texas.”

State leadership has appointed new members to a CPRIT oversight committee, which guides the work of the institute and approves all grant applications. Perry and Dewhurst have each made their three appointments to the committee. Straus has made two and still has one pending appointment. 

Perry appointed Angelos Angelou, founder and principal executive of AngelouEconomics and former vice president of the Austin Chamber of Commerce; Gerry Geistweidt, an attorney who has argued cases before the Texas Supreme Court, among others; and Dr. William Rice, senior vice president of clinical innovation for St. David’s Healthcare and the Central and West Texas Division of the Hospital Corporation of America.

Dewhurst appointed Ned Holmes, a businessman with experience in finance and real estate; Dr. Craig Rosenfeld, a physician and chief executive of Collaborative Medical Development, which develops treatments for neurogenerative and psychiatric diseases; and Amy Mitchell, a cancer survivor and attorney at Fulbright and Jaworski.

Straus appointed Pete Geren, president of the Sid W. Richardson Foundation, which provides grants to educational, health, human service and cultural nonprofit organizations in Texas, and Dr. Cynthia Mulrow, senior deputy editor of Annals of Internal Medicine and a member of the prestigious Institute of Medicine.

"The reforms passed by the Legislature will make CPRIT more transparent and accountable to the public," Straus said in a statement. "The agency is now equipped to implement those reforms and move forward with the critical mission of fighting cancer. The Legislature will closely monitor CPRIT in order to ensure that the agency's mission is realized and taxpayer dollars are used properly."

Editor's note: This story has been corrected. It originally stated Mark Watson was appointed to the oversight committe by Straus.

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