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Dozens of scientists quit Texas cancer agency review panels, claiming that business interests trumped merit

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e7267 (Published 29 October 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7267
  1. Keith Epstein
  1. 1Washington, DC

A publicly financed $3bn (£1.9bn; €2.3bn) effort to spur innovative cancer research, reduce cancer rates, and speed up the commercialization of new treatments has floundered amid controversy after the mass resignation of nearly three dozen scientists, including two Nobel laureates, from review committees.

The scientists were peer reviewers for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), who considered whether proposals deserved to be funded with taxpayers’ money. They complained that grants were being awarded on the basis of politics and business development ambitions rather than scientific merit.

Texas created the agency in 2007 after efforts by the cancer survivor and cyclist Lance Armstrong and the state’s governor, Rick Perry, to gain voters’ approval to finance a state run agency to fight cancer.

The agency has handed out more than 420 grants worth some $700m, the second largest source of government funding for cancer research after the National Institutes of Health, a federally funded institute that is facing limitations on funding.

Many experts viewed the agency as a prototype for establishing new sources of funding and nurturing start-up companies to accelerate the delivery …

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