Dr. Alfred Gilman, the former Chief Science Officer of CPRIT whose resignation sparked the organization’s controversy, has been elected inaugural fellow of the American Association for Cancer Research.
The man whose high-profile resignation as Chief Science Officer of CPRIT last year led to several investigations and a sustained funding freeze of the organization has been elected to the prestigious inaugural fellow position of the American Association for Cancer Research. Dr. Alfred Gilman, who won the 1994 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his landmark work in the study of identifying G proteins, joins an illustrious list of other fellows whose contributions to cancer research are well documented.
Dr. Gilman recently commented that, “It is an honor to be recognized with such a distinguished assembly of scientists and physicians. Hopefully, the creation of the academy will bring additional needed attention to the importance of cancer research, and ongoing efforts to prevent and treat the many forms of this disease.”
While Dr. Gilman’s work in cancer research is indeed critical, his high-profile resignation last year from the $3 billion dollar CPRIT organization — the nation’s largest state-funded cancer research initiative — is also significant to acknowledge. While Dr. Gilman’s resignation letter last May cited a sense that the organization was well-established and no longer needed his expertise, his concerns over shoddy peer review of potential grant recipients drew enough concern from the media and government to probe into the matter further.
Himself a fervent believer of the peer review process, which he stressed during his time at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Dr. Gilman saw concerning patterns of rushed or biased peer review — or a lack of it altogether.
In an article from Science Insider last May, Dr. Gilman cited “‘negative decisions’ about peer-reviewed grants awaiting the board’s final approval ‘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.'”
Dr. Gilman’s resignation also touched on the commericalization arm of CPRIT as well:
Gilman also has concerns about CPRIT’s “incubator” commercialization program, which made its first award of $20 million to Rice University and the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston in March. If the board is to approve more incubator grants in July, the rules for reviewing and funding them should be “revised,” the letter says. This would “prevent further award of vast funds for research programs ostensibly within incubators that were not described and therefore could not have been reviewed.”
Gilman’s concern over this particular award proved to be a harbinger of the full exposé of CPRIT’s grant approval process that was to come, and recently has come to bear on a new set of proposals from the CPRIT oversight committee that targets the organization’s commercialization arm in particular. A recent article on BioNews Texas outlines how proposed changes to the commercialization arm could effectively eliminate the organization’s role in attracting and funding start-up biotech companies in Texas.
As Dr. Gilman prepares to take on yet another prominent role in a major cancer-related organization, it is worth recognizing how his expertise and pedigree as a leading cancer researcher has kept him at the center of the CPRIT story in Texas.