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“The CPRIT grant has been a real blessing. … It’s basically training the next generation of family physicians.”

politan area to see a specialist. He adds many Texas A&M graduates will put this skill to use in their own practices. “It gives them a more in-depth understanding of the need for their patients

to be screened,” he said. Dr. McClellan also admits a personal stake in the game: His mother died of colon cancer at age 67. “If she had had a screening colonoscopy, she might be alive today,” he said.

He notes other faculty involved in C-STEP have lost family members to colon cancer. “All of us have some skin in the game and are passionate about this because we realize the importance of early detection,” he said.

SCANDAL STRIPS FUNDING Mr. Roberts says CPRIT funding supports a variety of measures to prevent can- cer across the state. “To date, CPRIT grants have supported cancer prevention, education and

training, evidence-based screening for the early detection of cancer, and survi- vorship services for nearly 2 million Texans,” he said. The Texas Public Health Coalition declared its support for CPRIT at its De-

cember 2014 meeting. In a one-pager, the group says, “CPRIT is leading the charge against cancer in Texas. We must continue to support strong public health activities that complement CPRIT’s work and make sure prevention, early detection, and survivorship programs remain strong.” Mr. Roberts also notes the economic impact of the organization. “A report by

The Perryman Group shows that through the end of fiscal year 2014, CPRIT’s ac- tivities and investments resulted in $3.6 billion in Texas business activity, 37,690 jobs created through direct and indirect economic activity, and $197 million in state tax receipts, along with $92.1 million in local government tax receipts.” But the righteous path wasn’t without its hiccups. Five years after the legis-

lature created CPRIT, the institute’s oversight committee disclosed that it had awarded an $11 million grant for Dallas-based Peloton Therapeutics without proper scientific review. State leaders placed a moratorium on new grants in De- cember 2012. In addition, former Chief Commercialization Officer Jerry Cobbs, who was responsible for presenting the Peloton grant to the CPRIT oversight board for approval, resigned shortly after the disclosure. A Travis County grand jury indicted him on first-degree felony charges in December 2013. Lawmakers restored funding during the 2013 legislative session, when they

passed Senate Bill 149, spearheaded by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) and Rep. Jim Keffer (R-Eastland) and supported by the Texas Medical Association, to overhaul CPRIT operations, ensure transparency within the organization, and restore its multimillion-dollar budget. Before the legislature approved the bill, TMA testified before the Senate

Health and Human Services Committee in its favor. TMA noted the bill modified CPRIT’s structure, established salary restrictions, and changed the composition of the oversight committee. SB 149 also established conflict-of-interest rules that govern institute committees and employees. The bill required the oversight committee to adopt a code of conduct applicable to the members of the over- sight and program integration committees and CPRIT employees. CPRIT is now up and running again, and Mr. Roberts says the statutory

changes allowed the agency to make a new start with an increased focus on transparency and accountability.

+ 24 TEXAS MEDICINE March 2015

See what grants are available through CPRIT, and apply online:

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