In the wake of the resignation of its Nobel-Prize-winning scientific leader, the US$3-billion Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) is defending the integrity of its grant-making process.
Al Gilman, chief scientific officer of the CPRIT, based in Austin, resigned from his post on 8 May; his resignation letter was made public today by ScienceInsider. In the letter, ScienceInsider writes, Gilman “alludes to problems” with the institute’s peer-review system, warning that “negative decisions” made at the oversight committee’s next funding round in July “would have a fatal impact on CPRIT’s peer review system” and would “be extremely harmful to the research community’s view of science in Texas, and thus on the ability to recruit scientists to the state.”
In a letter released today, CPRIT chief executive Bill Gimson defends the institute’s peer-review process.
“As CPRIT’s founding chief scientific officer, [Gilman] helped shape the framework and policies that distinguish CPRIT’s research portfolio from other cancer research funding agencies,” Gimson writes. “Under Al’s leadership, CPRIT recruited the best peer review committees in the world while implementing a conflict-free system that is the cornerstone of our cancer research grant award process.”
In an e-mail, Gilman declined to elaborate on the issues he raised in his resignation letter.
CPRIT’s peer-review process is similar to that of the state-funded California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), a stem-cell agency based in San Francisco. CPRIT peer reviewers all live and work outside the state, and their recommendations must be approved by the agency’s governing board.
But CIRM’s grant-approval process has been criticized for failing to exclude perceived conflicts of interest, most recently at a meeting convened by the US Institute of Medicine in April. A CIRM chief scientific officer, Marie Csete, also resigned from her post at the agency in 2009, although she did not cite problems with peer review as a reason.
Gilman’s resignation letter states that he will leave the CPRIT on 12 October. In an e-mail, he said he does not plan to revise that leaving date, “unless I am provoked to leave earlier”.
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