Embattled Cancer Agency Names New Science Chief

Nick Mulcahy

December 11, 2012

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) has appointed Margaret L. Kripke, MD, as its chief scientific officer, according to a wire service report. She succeeds Alfred Gilman, MD, PhD, a Nobel laureate who resigned earlier this year in an apparent protest of a major grant to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston that had not been properly reviewed by the funding agency.

Dr. Kripke is the former chief academic officer at MD Anderson but retired in 2007 from that position. She recently finished a 9-year term on the President's Cancer Panel, and her hiring "appears to be an effort to repair the dent in the institute's credibility," according to the Associated Press.

CPRIT was created in 2007, when voters approved a state constitutional amendment. Since its inception, CPRIT has received approximately $1 billion in appropriations from the Texas legislature to fund academic research projects, public prevention initiatives, and biotech cancer start-ups.

CPRIT hands out more cancer-related research dollars that any organization in the United States other than the National Institutes of Health, according to news sources.

Dr. Gilman resigned from his CPRIT post in May. He recently suggested that the billion-dollar agency was ripe for financial plundering.

"A friend of mine experienced in these matters told me this is the way it always works when you put a large amount of money on the table," Dr. Gilman said article published in the Houston Chronicle. "The vultures lie low for a couple years, figuring out how the system works. Then they come in for the feast. The MD Anderson grant was the first course of that feast."

That grant to which Dr. Gilman referred to is an $18 million award that was given to MD Anderson and Rice University in Houston for a research-business incubator project involving principal investigator Lynda Chin, MD, a physician at MD Anderson and the wife of Ronald DePinho, MD, who is president of the renowned cancer center. MD Anderson subsequently offered to withdraw the application and resubmit it later, and CPRIT agreed.

The grant is reportedly the largest ever awarded by CPRIT.

Other members of Dr Gilman's staff subsequently resigned from CPRIT this year and also cited favoritism at the agency.