69.5 F
Fort Worth
Saturday, September 26, 2020
- Advertisements -
Government Texas cancer agency gets second chance

Texas cancer agency gets second chance

Other News

Exxon’s oil slick

Exxon Mobil is slashing its capital spending budget for 2020 by 30% due to weak demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and a market...

Folk music’s Mark Twain: 7 Essential tracks from John Prine,

NEW YORK (AP) — Some people, the songs just come out of them. For nearly half a century, they tumbled out of John Prine...

Tarrant County records another COVID-19 death

Tarrant County Public Health (TCPH) on Wednesday, April 8 reported that a resident of Euless has died as the result of the COVID-19 virus....

Tradition stymied: A year unlike any since WWII for Augusta

The Masters is so intertwined with Augusta, they added an extra day to spring break.You see, the first full week of April isn't just...
Robert Francis
Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

 

PAUL J. WEBER,Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Gone are the large conferences, big pharma funding, Nobel laureates and lavishly paid state officials who vowed scientific breakthroughs from Texas’ unprecedented $3 billion crusade against cancer.

What’s left of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas isn’t flashy, but that’s precisely the goal for an agency regaining its footing after a year of turmoil and an ongoing a criminal investigation.

“When this started off, when we had Lance Armstrong and all the other advocates, it was ballyhooed,” said Wayne Roberts, the interim executive director of the agency. “Publicized. Promoted. Listen, $3 billion for something like cancer — it’s going to have to really be in trouble before they don’t support it.”

A Texas grand jury is still weighing criminal charges against former officials, and rebukes from some of the nation’s top researchers have sullied the agency’s reputation. But CPRIT, like the cancer patients it was created to help, is getting a second chance.

Skeptics still aren’t convinced that lessons were learned. Some nationally acclaimed scientists who severed ties with CPRIT last year say they haven’t bothered keeping up with the sweeping reforms and housecleaning that are supposed to right an agency that hands out $300 million in taxpayer dollars every year.

Others mindful of dwindling research money are willing to put their disappointment aside.

“I guess it’s like when the Dallas Cowboys have a down season,” said Dr. Ian Thompson, director of the cancer and therapy research center at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, which has received more than $23 million from CPRIT. “Do you walk away from the Cowboys? Absolutely not.”

Before packed abortion-rights protests at the state Capitol this summer caught even the attention of President Barack Obama, few issues dominated the Texas Legislature in 2013 like the fate of CPRIT. The agency controls the second-biggest pot of available cancer research dollars in the nation, behind only the National Institutes of Health, which has suffered with government cutbacks.

CPRIT launched in 2009. The public paid little attention to the agency after a celebrated rollout while researchers and private companies eagerly lined up for a shot at the taxpayer dollars.

Then the national attention CPRIT craved arrived, but for all the wrong reasons. Lucrative grants had been awarded without vetting; elite researchers levied allegations of “hucksterism”; state auditors uncovered mismanagement and questionable spending. One grant recipient spent more than $100,000 on office furniture.

By December, lawmakers froze the agency under a moratorium, and public corruption prosecutors began pulling CPRIT records. Big-shot lobbyists in Capitol hallways bet that “CPRIT is not going to live,” Roberts said he later learned.

Lawmakers instead cleaned house and put the agency on a tighter leash. The entire 11-member oversight board was ousted. A nonprofit foundation that solicited money from donors and pharmaceutical giants such as Novartis and Pfizer Inc. — partly to help two state officials take home a combined $1 million in salary — dissolved and won’t be replaced.

Now, after being effectively frozen for eight months, the agency hopes to begin taking applications for new grants by October. Leading the way is Roberts, a former aide to Gov. Rick Perry and budget wonk who is deliberately pushing CPRIT ahead with all the pizazz of the state’s insurance department.

None of the three founding executives of CPRIT, which included a Nobel laureate and executive of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had experience running a state agency. Roberts said it became clear to him after taking over that was part of the problem.

Cathy Bonner, who helped hatch the idea for CPRIT, agreed.

“You run a boring state agency by the books, and you’re a careful steward of the public money,” said Bonner, an aide to former Texas Gov. Ann Richards. “You don’t have that corruption. And I think they didn’t have enough people who knew how to run a public agency with public money. It would thrill me completely if this was a boring state agency that does remarkable, boring research.”

What’s next for CPRIT is the appointment of a new governing board and the restocking of peer-review panels that were left bare as waves of scientists resigned. Roberts said some who resigned have approached the agency about coming back but declined to name them.

“We got a pretty direct message — you’re getting a second chance,” Roberts said. “You ain’t getting a third chance.”

___

- Advertisements -
- Advertisements -

Latest News

Probe into ‘discarded’ ballots becomes campaign outrage fuel

By CHRISTINA A. CASSIDY and MARK SCOLFORO Associated Press HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The news release from a U.S....

East Texas official arrested for alleged mail-in voter fraud involving 2018 Democratic primary for local seat

By Emma Platoff, The Texas Tribune Sept. 24, 2020 "East Texas official arrested for...

As part of revived federal death penalty, Christopher Vialva executed for Texas double murder

By Jolie McCullough, The Texas Tribune Sept. 24, 2020 "As part of revived federal...

Houston sampling wastewater to track spread of COVID-19

By JUAN A. LOZANO Associated PressHOUSTON (AP) — Results from a program that's testing Houston's wastewater to monitor the local spread of...

Justice Dept. expected to file antitrust action vs. Google

By MICHAEL BALSAMO and MARCY GORDON Associated PressWASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is expected to bring an antitrust action against Google...