On Oct. 12, Alfred Gilman will leave the $3 billion Texas agency where
he oversaw cancer research.
The parting is anything but amicable, and it doesn’t look like it will be
The Nobel laureate, who spent the past three years as the chief scientific
officer of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, says the
principles of funding good science at the state agency have been supplanted
by political manipulation and greed.
“I built something I am proud of, and now it’s being taken apart,” Gilman
said to The Cancer Letter. “I can’t work for people who are pushing their own interests
at the expense of the interests of cancer patients.”
The institution Gilman built relied on top-level scientists from outside the
state to distribute funds, rising above politics of all flavors: academic, parochial,
and Texan. Gilman’s departure raises an important question: can CPRIT
exist as a credible scientific agency without Gilman?
Or, more precisely, can it survive being publicly slammed by Gilman?
As the CPRIT drama plays out, there is little doubt that the state legislature
could easily find an alternative use for the $300 million a year it appropriates to
the cancer venture.
Changes at MD Anderson Cancer Center play a central role in this battle.
CPRIT’s decision to award $18 million to a biotechnology incubator run by Lynda
Chin, the wife of that cancer center’s president, Ronald DePinho, was a principal
cause of Gilman’s departure.