The 2007 voter-approved constitutional amendment that created CPRIT authorized the state to purchase bonds to fund $3 billion in cancer research grants over 10 years. Republican Sens. Jane Nelson, of Flower Mound, and Kevin Eltife, of Tyler, have filed measures to stop funding CPRIT through the sale of bonds. Nelson's SB 150 would prohibit the state from funding CPRIT, specifically, with bonds issued through the constitutional amendment. Eltife's SJR 19 would allow Texas voters to decide whether to remove the constitutional amendment that authorized the grants.
"Like many Texans, I have lost a loved one to cancer, and I understand the importance of research for cures and treatments," said Eltife in a prepared statement. "However, I do not support the State of Texas going into debt to accomplish these objectives, and would prefer that it be funded on a 'pay-as-you-go' basis."
Neither of the proposals would dissolve CPRIT, but rather, would require the state to find an alternative funding mechanism.
After it was discovered that CPRIT awarded an $11 million commercialization grant to Peloton Therapeutics without proper review, the Travis County district attorney's office and Texas attorney general opened criminal and civil investigations of the organization. Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus called for a moratorium on new CPRIT grants. And the 2014-15 biennium budgets proposed by both the House and Senate slashed all funding for the institute.
Nelson also filed SB 149 to require a compliance officer to verify future grants received proper review and that additional measures are implemented to prevent future conflicts of interest.
Jimmy Mansour, the chairman of both CPRIT and the CPRIT Foundation, a non-profit that supplements the salaries of the executive director and chief scientific officer of CPRIT, met with the district attorney's office last week.
Mansour "was assured that CPRIT, as an organization, and all current board members, are free from suspicion in the ongoing CPRIT investigation," said Bill Miller, a spokesperson for Mansour in an email to the Tribune. "Mr. Mansour reiterated that CPRIT will continue to work closely with investigators and the Legislature to bring this to a close."
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