Texas' $3B cancer agency makes computational biology a priority

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) has responded to scandals that put it out of action for a year with a report detailing how it plans to use its $3 billion war chest. In the report, CPRIT lists computational biology as one of 7 proposed priorities for its $300-million-a-year funding program.

CPRIT was ordered to conduct a review of its funding priorities as part of the reforms initiated by state legislators in 2013. The reforms ousted the board and at one stage threatened to ax CPRIT entirely as legislators sought to restore trust in the organization amid allegations funds were allocated without going through the necessary review process. Jerald Cobbs, a high-ranking CPRIT official, was indicted by a grand jury for allegedly deceiving the organization's leaders about an $11 million grant.

Now, with legislators having turned the funding faucet back on, CPRIT has outlined how it plans to use the money. "Three hundred million dollars a year sounds like a lot of money, but it's nowhere near industry's $9 billion and the National Cancer Institute's $5 billion investments. We wanted to determine how Texas can make a difference, what are the neglected areas where we can be a player?" CPRIT project leader Rebecca Garcia told the Houston Chronicle.

Garcia thinks computational biology and analytic methods are areas in which CPRIT's comparatively meager funding can improve cancer research. The organization is also planning to fund research into rare, hard-to-treat cancers, particularly those affecting children. In the past, politicians have criticized CPRIT for focusing too much on early-stage research. CPRIT appears to have tried to counter these claims with its recent funding, almost one-third of which has been allocated to product development.

- read the Chronicle's article (reg. req.)
- check out the report (PDF)