Join The Discussion

 

Group buys former Armour meatpacking site in Stockyards

The 16.8-acre site of the historic, former Armour meatpacking plant in Fort Worth’s Stockyards has changed hands, and its new owners aren’t saying anything about their plans. Chesapeake Land Development Co., which bought the site

read more >

Hulen Pointe Shopping Center sold

Hulen Pointe Shopping Center, located in southwest Fort Worth on South Hulen Street one mile south of Hulen Mall, has been purchased by Addison-based Bo Avery with TriMarsh Properties for an undisclosed price.

read more >

Dallas-Fort Worth in top five commercial real estate markets in 2015

According to the Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2015 report, just co-published by PwC US and the Urban Land Institute (ULI), Dallas-Fort Worth ranks No. 5, with two other Texas cities, Houston and Austin ranking at No. 1 and 2 respectively. San Francisco ranks No. 3 and Denver No. 4.

read more >

Social House Fort Worth plans to open mid-November

Social House has leased 5,045 square feet at 2801-2873 W Seventh St. in Fort Worth, according to Xceligent Inc.

read more >

Fort Worth temporarily stops issuing new home permits in TCU area

The moratorium will give a committee and the City Council time to review a proposed overlay that will pare the number of permissible unrelated adults living in the same house.

read more >

Texas cancer agency gets second chance

 

PAUL J. WEBER,Associated Press


AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Gone are the large conferences, big pharma funding, Nobel laureates and lavishly paid state officials who vowed scientific breakthroughs from Texas' unprecedented $3 billion crusade against cancer.

What's left of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas isn't flashy, but that's precisely the goal for an agency regaining its footing after a year of turmoil and an ongoing a criminal investigation.

"When this started off, when we had Lance Armstrong and all the other advocates, it was ballyhooed," said Wayne Roberts, the interim executive director of the agency. "Publicized. Promoted. Listen, $3 billion for something like cancer — it's going to have to really be in trouble before they don't support it."

A Texas grand jury is still weighing criminal charges against former officials, and rebukes from some of the nation's top researchers have sullied the agency's reputation. But CPRIT, like the cancer patients it was created to help, is getting a second chance.

Skeptics still aren't convinced that lessons were learned. Some nationally acclaimed scientists who severed ties with CPRIT last year say they haven't bothered keeping up with the sweeping reforms and housecleaning that are supposed to right an agency that hands out $300 million in taxpayer dollars every year.

Others mindful of dwindling research money are willing to put their disappointment aside.

"I guess it's like when the Dallas Cowboys have a down season," said Dr. Ian Thompson, director of the cancer and therapy research center at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, which has received more than $23 million from CPRIT. "Do you walk away from the Cowboys? Absolutely not."

Before packed abortion-rights protests at the state Capitol this summer caught even the attention of President Barack Obama, few issues dominated the Texas Legislature in 2013 like the fate of CPRIT. The agency controls the second-biggest pot of available cancer research dollars in the nation, behind only the National Institutes of Health, which has suffered with government cutbacks.

CPRIT launched in 2009. The public paid little attention to the agency after a celebrated rollout while researchers and private companies eagerly lined up for a shot at the taxpayer dollars.

Then the national attention CPRIT craved arrived, but for all the wrong reasons. Lucrative grants had been awarded without vetting; elite researchers levied allegations of "hucksterism"; state auditors uncovered mismanagement and questionable spending. One grant recipient spent more than $100,000 on office furniture.

By December, lawmakers froze the agency under a moratorium, and public corruption prosecutors began pulling CPRIT records. Big-shot lobbyists in Capitol hallways bet that "CPRIT is not going to live," Roberts said he later learned.

Lawmakers instead cleaned house and put the agency on a tighter leash. The entire 11-member oversight board was ousted. A nonprofit foundation that solicited money from donors and pharmaceutical giants such as Novartis and Pfizer Inc. — partly to help two state officials take home a combined $1 million in salary — dissolved and won't be replaced.

Now, after being effectively frozen for eight months, the agency hopes to begin taking applications for new grants by October. Leading the way is Roberts, a former aide to Gov. Rick Perry and budget wonk who is deliberately pushing CPRIT ahead with all the pizazz of the state's insurance department.

None of the three founding executives of CPRIT, which included a Nobel laureate and executive of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had experience running a state agency. Roberts said it became clear to him after taking over that was part of the problem.

Cathy Bonner, who helped hatch the idea for CPRIT, agreed.

"You run a boring state agency by the books, and you're a careful steward of the public money," said Bonner, an aide to former Texas Gov. Ann Richards. "You don't have that corruption. And I think they didn't have enough people who knew how to run a public agency with public money. It would thrill me completely if this was a boring state agency that does remarkable, boring research."

What's next for CPRIT is the appointment of a new governing board and the restocking of peer-review panels that were left bare as waves of scientists resigned. Roberts said some who resigned have approached the agency about coming back but declined to name them.

"We got a pretty direct message — you're getting a second chance," Roberts said. "You ain't getting a third chance."

___

< back

Email   email
hide
Ebola
How worried are you about Ebola spreading?