in Houston, Texas
Email records shed light on allegations of politics in Texas cancer center’s funding decisions
Friday, Jun 01, 2012, 03:51PM CST
By Mike Cronin
lab

A publicly funded state cancer research center’s methods of awarding grants has come under scrutiny due to accusations by its former chief scientific officer, who is a Nobel laureate.

Dr. Alfred Gilman resigned two weeks after he e-mailed colleagues at the Cancer and Prevention Research Institute of Texas that funding decisions were being made based on political considerations rather than the peer-review process, the Associated Press reported this morning.

“I can of course make the case that I was attempting to prevent improper distribution of taxpayer funds, as well as protesting the lack of awards to well-reviewed proposals based on political considerations,” read an April 25 e-mail Gilman wrote to colleagues.

He will stay until October to ensure “the rules governing review and funding of incubators have been revised to prevent further award of vast funds for research programs ostensibly within incubators that were not described and therefore could not have been reviewed," Gilman wrote in his resignation letter earlier this month.

Texas voters created the agency in 2007. Since then $670 million in taxpayer money has been awarded for cancer research and prevention and bringing new treatments to patients.

State officials released a trove of documents to the Dallas Morning News that included e-mails from Gilman.

The issue exploded earlier this month when Gilman objected to a $20 million grant to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Rice University in Houston. The University of Texas System has opened an investigation into the handling of that grant application, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Those in charge of that project submitted a six-and-a-half-page proposal that had no scientific description of what they planned to do, Gilman pointed out.

Worse,  the proposal was allowed to sidestep the institute’s independent peer-review committee of out-of-state scientists.

Institute and M.D. Anderson officials have agreed to review the proposal again before finalizing the $20 million.

Editor's Note: This post was updated at 5:14 p.m. to include information about the UT system investigation uncovered by the Houston Chronicle.

***
Contact Mike Cronin at mike@texaswatchdog.org or 713-228-2850. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelccronin or @texaswatchdog.

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