SENATE APPROVES CANCER INSTITUTE OVERSIGHT BILL
(AUSTIN) —The state's central repository for cancer research would be subject to stricter observation under a bill approved by the Senate Wednesday. The $3 billion Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) has been under fire for a number of improper grants and conflicts of interest this session. Senator Jane Nelson of Flower Mound, who sponsored the bill that created CPRIT, told colleagues such abuse will never happen again if her bill becomes law. "It establishes an iron-clad system of checks and balances that will make it impossible for the agency to run without one-hundred percent transparency and accountability," she said.
CPRIT was set up to offer grants to Texas companies to pay for cancer related biomedical research. A state auditor report found that some of these grants, worth a little more than $50 million, were given to researchers who had ties to CPRIT officials. Nelson's bill, SB 149, would specifically forbid CPRIT employees from having business or research relationships with grantees. It also reorganizes the agency's structure, limiting terms on the agency Oversight Committee to two years and requiring that all agency executives report directly to the agency CEO.
The bill won unanimous approval from the Senate. Dallas Senator Royce West, who voted for the 2009 measure that created CPRIT, said those that abused the public trust of Texas deserve punishment. Nelson agreed, saying ongoing investigations of the questionable grants are under way. The bill now heads the House for consideration.
The Senate will reconvene Thursday, April 4 at 11 a.m.