The CPRIT Foundation, a privately funded organization that in large part augmented the salaries of the CPRIT executive staff, is targeted in the Oversight Committee’s new proposed changes. How will these “New Requirements” affect attracting talent to the organization?
There’s no doubt that the CPRIT Oversight Committee will have a lot of explaining to do in response to questions over a wide range of proposed cuts and revisions to the way the cancer research-funding organization does business in Texas. In an ongoing series or articles that looks at the new, proposed changes ahead of the Committee’s public meeting this Thursday, March 21st, we’ve already outlined how the proposals appear to eliminate the commercialization arm of the organization and significantly narrow research grants as well. Our new article today draws attention to the CPRIT Foundation.
There is only one direct reference to the CPRIT Foundation in the new proposals, found in this summary of Section 703.3:
Section 703.3 proposes changes to address requirements for the applicant seeking a grant award. The section clarifies the areas of cancer research and prevention program that the Institute’s requests for applications will address. The section also clarifies “material requirements” that must be satisfied by the applicant to be eligible for review. It adds the high-level summary of the application to the list of information considered public information. New requirements are added regarding prohibited donations to the CPRIT Foundation or similar foundation and the identification of all sources of funding contributing to the project proposed for Institute funding.
The complete document can be downloaded here at BioNews Texas.
The CPRIT Foundation is a privately-funded organization that works in tandem with state-funded CPRIT. According to its mission statement on the CPRIT Foundation website:
The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas Foundation serves as the connecting link for public policy, community, and business leaders and is committed to strengthening and expanding the fight against cancer in Texas by:
- Serving as the unified voice for the cancer advocacy community through educational, awareness, and public policy efforts;
- Utilizing public/private partnerships to promote prevention education throughout the state;
- Advancing commercialization and economic development partnerships between companies, privately-held enterprises and community-based economic development groups to create and enhance jobs in the life science industry; and
- Supporting the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas’ efforts to prevent and combat cancer.
For as much as the CPRIT Foundation’s end goals appear to be closely aligned with its state-funded counterpart, an article published on December 12th in the Houston Chronicle outlined the foundation’s implicit role in CPRIT: to augment the salaries of CPRIT executives. The article states that:
“[Bill] Gimson, a former official of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “referenced the CDC model” of private salary supplements “and it gave him the idea to replicate that model to support and strengthen CPRIT work,” the foundation’s executive director, Jennifer Stevens, said in a document provided to the Chronicle Wednesday.”
Because CPRIT is essentially a governmental organization, salaries are necessarily capped in the same way as other government employees. Thus, in order for CPRIT to attract high-level biotech talent, the organization needs to be able to add additional private funding to its executives’ salaries.
The crux of this new resolution appears to address conflict of interest issues. In Section 703.3 (j), it states:
” . . .the applicant shall certify that it has not made and will not make a donation to the Institute or any foundation specifically created to benefit the Institute. For purposes of this certification, the applicant includes an employee, officer or director of the applicant, or a person who is second-degree consanguinity or affinity to an employee, officer or director of the applicant.”
However, this section generally deals with the research grant application process, ensuring that research applicants have not directly or indirectly been a part of a donation to CPRIT that could otherwise sway the approval process.
Neither Section 703.3 nor any other section of the document ever references the CPRIT Foundation again. However, the final paragraph of the section in question does stipulate that:
Applicants shall identify by name all sources of funding, including a capitalization table that reflects private investors, contributing to the project proposed for Institute funding. This information includes those who have an investment, stock or rights in the project and shall be made available to scientific research and prevention program committee members, Institute employees, and Oversight Committee members for purposes of identifying potential conflicts of interest prior to reviewing or taking action on the grant application.
Indirectly, the language here would once again suggest that the new compliance and oversight officials will seek to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest between applicants and the organization. Assumably, this would also include the CPRIT Foundation.
It remains to be seen exactly how the CPRIT Foundation will be affected by these new proposals, as the question is likely to be asked at this week’s open meeting. Given the foundation’s reluctance to open its books and reveal donors in the wake of the growing CPRIT scandal — which it finally made public amid mounting pressure to do so — there is no doubt that increased oversight will be a necessary reform in the new iteration of CPRIT. However, if the CPRIT Foundation is significantly hamstrung by new limitations, it could become exceedingly difficult to attract further scientific talent into the organization going forward.