Texas Taxpayers to Give Cancer Research Another $3 Billion
Texas Taxpayers to Give Cancer Research Another $3 Billion

Texas Taxpayers to Give Cancer Research Another $3 Billion

Voters approved a measure to double the state’s Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas.

Nov 7, 2019
Kerry Grens

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The Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas, a state-run program with a $3 billion budget, will receive another $3 billion after voters approved a ballot measure on Tuesday (November 5), Science reports. The influx of funds means that CPRIT will receive $300 million a year for the next 10 years.

“Everyone at CPRIT appreciates the confidence Texans place in us to guide the state toward a cancer-free future,” CPRIT CEO Wayne Roberts says in a statement.

The agency began in 2009 with the goal of fueling science, bringing in top talent, developing new therapeutics, and encouraging cancer prevention. CPRIT encountered scandal in its early years when an audit discovered that $56 million in grants had been awarded without proper review, while other applications were left in limbo. This led officials to suspend the agency for 10 months beginning in December 2012 and overhaul is procedures and leadership.

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Despite the troubled start, CPRIT has been credited with recruiting 180 cancer researchers to the state, according to the Austin-American Statesman. “We talk about Jim Allison, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine last year for his cancer research as an example. He was brought to Texas [as] a consequence of a CPRIT grant,” John Zerwas, a state representative (R), tells the Statesman.  The Houston Chronicle adds that CPRIT’s prevention and early detection programs have contributed to a 9 percent drop in Texas’s cancer death rate from 2010–2015. 

While Texas lawmakers overwhelmingly support cancer research, some have sought to make CPRIT a financially independent agency that no longer relies on taxpayer support. “[W]ith so many other critical priorities like mental health infrastructure, foster care and public schools competing for funding, I’m not sure the state should be so quick to commit more taxpayer money to something that—while unquestionably noble—is really not an essential function of state government,” state senator Charles Schwertner (R) tells the Chronicle.

Kerry Grens is a senior editor and the news director of The Scientist. Email her at kgrens@the-scientist.com.