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State Leaders Appoint New Members to Oversee Cancer Institute

State leaders, hoping to restore public faith in the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, on Thursday appointed new members of the institute's oversight committee.

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In an ongoing effort to restore Texans’ faith in the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, state leaders on Thursday appointed new members to the committee that oversees it.

"I remain fully committed to CPRIT's mission and consider it the best hope for treating and curing this dreaded disease," Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said in a press statement.

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 cancer prevention programs for 10 years.

After a state audit revealed in January that the institute approved $56 million in grants without following the proper peer review process, lawmakers put a temporary moratorium on distribution of new CPRIT grants. 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.

On Thursday, Gov. Rick Perry and Dewhurst announced their new appointees to the oversight committee.

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, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas and U.S. Tax Court; 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.

Jason Embry, a spokesman for House Speaker Joe Straus, said he will appoint the final three members of the oversight committee soon. "He believes all of the new board members, combined with the reforms passed by the Legislature this year, will help restore public trust in CPRIT and allow the agency to focus on the critical mission of fighting cancer," Embry said in an email.

The reforms that lawmakers approved last session removed the state comptroller and attorney general from the oversight committee. State leaders are also now required to appoint at least one person who is a physician or scientist with extensive experience in the fields of oncology or public health. Appointees are required to disclose any political donations of more than $1,000 within the last five years. And they are prohibited from having direct or indirect ties to businesses or individuals who receive a CPRIT grant.

"The Oversight Committee is critical in CPRIT’s efforts to advance cancer research in Texas," Wayne Roberts, interim executive director, said in a statement. "We are glad to have these new appointments in place and look forward to working with the full committee to fulfill CPRIT’s important mission."

Editor's note: This story has been edited to further clarify that the $56 million in grants were approved "without following the proper peer review process," rather than "without proper peer review." Two of the three grants were peer reviewed, but the institute did not properly document the process, which raised concerns during the state audit.

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