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$18M Grant to Be Re-reviewed

A Texas cancer institute is taking a second look at the largest grant it ever awarded after concerns were raised that the proposal never received proper scientific review.

By | June 1, 2012

image: $18M Grant to Be Re-reviewed Lung cancer cell with irregular bulges in the plasma membrane (purple)Flickr, Wellcome Images

Lung cancer cell with irregular bulges in the plasma membrane (purple)FLICKR, WELLCOME IMAGES

In March, the taxpayer-funded Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) awarded a team of researchers at the Institute for Applied Cancer Science (IACS) at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston $18 million to develop new cancer drugs. Last month, the institute’s chief scientific officer, Nobel laureate Alfred Gilman resigned, noting concerns about how the proposal for the large grant—the largest ever awarded by the institute, according to Nature—never underwent scientific review.

Specifically, Gilman suspected that CPRIT had awarded this controversial "incubator" grant, which aims to enhance the existing small molecule lines of research while branching out into biologics, instead of funding seven smaller grants, totaling $39 million, that had already received positive review. And the grant was awarded despite “strikingly lacking in specific[s]” about the research, CPRIT’s scientific review council wrote in a letter to the oversight committee that awarded the grant. “We are surprised and disappointed by the failure of proposals of this sort to receive scientific (research) peer review,” the committee wrote.

“The application was a business plan,” MD Anderson President Ronald DePinho, the husband of cancer researcher Lynda Chin, who is listed as the principal investigator on the IACS team, told Nature. “It was clear [the reviewers] did not want the science. They assumed the science was strong. We had a very, very strong track record in that regard.”

But in an exchange of letters with CPRIT, DePinho offered to have the grant re-reviewed, and CPRIT’s executive director William Gimson agreed to do just that. The new review, however, will be conducted by the same CPRIT review council that initially recommended funding the proposal, not scientific reviewers.

Check out Nature's coverage of the controversy, including a Q&A with DePinho and Chin.

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Avatar of: sirtuxofarkansas

sirtuxofarkansas

Posts: 8

June 1, 2012

Why did they bother? They will fund the grant anyway and Dr. Gilman will be reinstated.

June 3, 2012

But why would Dr. Gilman be "reinstated"??  Based on this article, it appears that he resigned in protest to the way the grant awarding process was handled -- although perhaps the article was written in a misleading sort of way and I was duped into thinking that.

Avatar of: Lee Ling

Lee Ling

Posts: 1

June 4, 2012

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Avatar of: jhnycmltly

jhnycmltly

Posts: 65

June 6, 2012

Texans should be charged with child endangerment. Each and every one of them.
Texas researchers found iron to be harming children with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. They concluded a study MUST be done to establish whether dietary iron too is harming children. They never did the study. The law states , if you see something harming someone and fail to take reasonable steps to inform , you are guilty of criminal neglect.
"We found that iron excessively accumulates in arthritic joints and probablycontributes to the chronic damage"

Avatar of: bobbienc

bobbienc

Posts: 2

June 15, 2012

If grants are routinely being granted on the basis of previous "strong track record(s)," rather than stringent and unbiased scientific review, then I want my taxpayer money back. The process used here needs to be investigated--something smells about this one. And having it re-reviewed exactly as it was done the first time accomplishes nothing except waste additional taxpayers money and deny legitimate applicants. I also question what oversight there is of these grants once implemented.

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