News of CPRIT‘s decision to fast-track 25 high-profile grants earlier in the week led many to believe that the funding freeze was over. A new report, however, reveals that the moratorium on cancer research funding will continue for now.
For those who have been following the CPRIT scandal, news that CPRIT Interim director Wayne Roberts was planning to approve 25 high-profile grants earlier in the week was seen as a clear sign that the CPRIT moratorium was indeed being lifted, and that the grant process would once again resume in Texas. However, a new article in Bizjournals today indicates that, while CPRIT did indeed re-engage their funding process this week, the overall funding freeze will continue on.
Writer Bayan Raji explains that:
“The 25 grants are not for commercialization or research, but to recruit scientists. According to the agency’s most recent statement, CPRIT ‘will continue to seek guidance from the Legislature and Governor before finalizing these awards.'”
In point of fact, CPRIT’s continued decision to halt funding of cancer research projects is completely in line with the first report of the week, which read that, “[i]n his letter to Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Speaker Joe Straus, who ordered the moratorium, agency Director Wayne Roberts. . .recommended fast-tracking 25 grants intended to lure first-class researchers.” This limited intent to fund only recruiting-oriented initiatives that was first reported by BioNews Texas and others is exactly what has transpired thus far. Apparently, both the media and the Texas biotech community jumped the gun in interpreting these recruitment grants as a sure sign that cancer funding would resume in earnest.
That does not appear to be the case, after all. However, many in the media still appear to be unwilling to admit that overzealous reporting was at the root of any misinformation that CPRIT would indeed begin funding cancer research again, effective this week, as evidenced in Ms. Raji’s piece:
CPRIT officials were not immediately available for comment, but a March 4 statement from Roberts seemed to express the urgency of awarding the recruitment grants.
“Further delay in finalizing these awards potentially places these recruited researchers at professional risk. Many have given notice of impending change in their employment and are in the process of relocating themselves and their families to new homes in Texas,” Roberts said in the statement.
A re-read of Mr. Roberts’ statement confirms that the urgency he expressed in his letter to the Governor was specific to being able to recruit and retain biotech talent — there is no evidence in Roberts’ statement that cancer research funding would resume as well.
Texas State Rep Calls On CPRIT To Resume Cancer Research Funding
In spite of the fact that the hopes of the CPRIT moratorium have proven to be abortive — at least for this week — calls for the organization to resume their normal activities continues to increase from voices in the media, government, and private sector.
Today, Texas State Representative Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, who is also a senior member of the Texas House Public Health Committee, and who met with Mr. Roberts on March 5th, publicly stated that he is in support of CPRIT’s move this week to secure funding for key biotech recruitment, and also believes that properly applied-for research grants should begin to be approved again.
Rep. Coleman, however, did stipulate that the final call to fully reinstate CPRIT is ultimately Gov. Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst‘s decision, and that the Texas government will defer to his decision. In the wake of this report, the Texas Senate saw late-breaking testimony in the CPRIT affair today, as reported by the Texas Tribune. Lawmakers once again expressed public anger over the mishandling of several high-profile CPRIT blunders, including the mismanagement of CTNeT. CPRIT Chief Roberts, however, sought to find consensus in his testimony:
“Although the mistakes are regrettable, positive steps have begun … to prevent the recurrence of those,” said Wayne Roberts, CPRIT’s interim executive director. Later, he told lawmakers that “we just need to fix this problem and hopefully convince you that it should go on.”
Look to next week for an official reaction from CPRIT and Governor’s Perry’s office on when cancer research funding will resume.