AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas' embattled $3 billion cancer-fighting agency has officially accepted its executive director's resignation and appointed two top executives in hopes of restoring the public's confidence, an agency official said Friday.
The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas on Friday named Wayne Roberts as interim executive director. He is a member of the State Pension Review Board, which oversees all Texas public retirement systems. Former state Deputy Comptroller Billy Hamilton was named senior advisor to the executive director and oversight committee.
Officials also announced the agency's oversight committee had officially accepted the resignation of Bill Gimson. Two other executives — Chief Commercialization Officer Jerry Cobbs and Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Alfred Gilman — have resigned in the last eight months as the agency has become the target of widespread rebuke from scientists.
A criminal investigation was launched earlier this month after revelations that a hefty grant awarded to a private company bypassed review. Gov. Rick Perry this week called for a moratorium on new grants.
"Restoring public confidence in CPRIT is critical, and I believe having two recognized leaders like Wayne and Billy assuming leadership roles will go a long way toward improving the institute's management and restoring confidence in its operations," Jimmy Mansour, the oversight committee's chairman, said in a statement.
The agency also announced Friday that it has given prosecutors previously missing emails about an $11 million grant improperly awarded to Dallas-based Peloton Therapeutics in 2010 without the required reviews by scientific and business experts, the Austin American-Statesman reported (http://bit.ly/Vb0dOZ ). The emails were not released to the public.
Peloton was to commercialize research at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, where Gilman, a Nobel laureate, worked before he accepted a $700,000-a-year job at the cancer institute, the newspaper reported.
An internal audit uncovered the irregularities surrounding Peloton's award in 2010. The agency says the company was unaware that its 27-page proposal was never reviewed, and company executives have declined comment.
The discovery of Peloton's award came on the heels of the agency funding a $20 million project roundly condemned for not first undergoing an independent scientific review.
The institute has spent the year mired in criticism and intensifying scrutiny after debuting in 2009 to widespread acclaim. The state-run agency is home to the nation's second largest pot of cancer-research money, behind only the National Institutes of Health, and has awarded nearly $700 million.