Days after declaring a voluntary moratorium on grants, the US$3-billion Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) has announced the appointment of two interim leaders with expertise in state finance. Wayne Roberts is a former associate vice-president for public policy at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Former Texas Deputy Comptroller Billy Hamilton will serve as an adviser. Earlier in December, the Austin-based CPRIT announced that it had hired a new chief scientific officer.
On Wednesday, CPRIT leadership agreed to a request from Texas governor Rick Perry, lieutenant governor David Dewhurst and House speaker Joe Straus. The politicians said that the confidence of Texas taxpayers should be restored before new funds are dispersed (now-funded grants should not be affected). Shenanigans at CPRIT have given the citizens of Texas much reason to doubt the state-financed funding agency (see ‘Banish cronyism’).
Meanwhile, CPRIT is under a criminal investigation because grantees that were funded despite low review scores had ties to a major campaign contributor backing the Texas governor and lieutenant governor.
In October, the chief scientific officer and many peer-reviewers resigned because of concerns about the integrity of peer review, in particular an $18-million grant awarded without scientific review.
In November, the chief commercial officer left amid revelations that an $11-million grant had been awarded without review. The executive director left in December, two days after a new chief scientific officer, Margaret Kripke, was hired. She will certainly have a lot on her plate for 2013.