Texas’ cancer agency – what did YOU think you were supporting? [with video]

Governor Rick Perry has been talking a lot about CPRIT – the embattled Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas – this week. Already under criminal investigation, the agency is under fire for alleged improprieties regarding its process for granting money to entities for cancer research.

Except now, most of Governor Perry’s emphasis on this agency seems to surround commercialization of cancer treatments. Not funding research to cure or prevent cancer, mind you, but instead how to create wealth from this disease.

I have not recently been shy about what I think about this agency’s performance so far, and the Governor’s focus on making money off cancer research only makes a bad situation worse.

Here’s what I said about it last night on YNN’s Capital Tonight:

If the emphasis of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas is suddenly going to be commercialization, and not curing and preventing this disease, then I would gently suggest that they need to change the name of the agency.

I would further suggest that you – the voters of Texas – were sold a bill of goods, because here’s the language on your ballot you were asked to vote on:

The constitutional amendment requiring the creation of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas and authorizing the issuance of up to $3 billion in bonds payable from the general revenues of the state for research in Texas to find the causes of and cures for cancer. [emphasis added]

Nowhere in the ballot language, or in the legislative debate prior to legislators voting to put this before voters, was there mention of “…so that private companies can get their stuff funded with taxpayer money, and get richer than God off the scourge of cancer.”

Screen Shot 2013-01-11 at 11.05.04 AMIf CPRIT is to be continued, it should do everything it can to facilitate prevention and cures. If instead the emphasis will be on how best to get rich using taxpayer-funded sweetheart deals, the State of Texas should get out of the cancer business. I would also suggest that the emphasis doesn’t even need to be on commercialization, because if any of CPRIT’s grants actually does result in research which finds a cure for cancer, trust me: everybody involved will make a ton of money.

You can watch the entire episode of Capital Tonight here, which includes an interview with Rick Perry, and comments by others on the CPRIT funding issue.

Update: here’s Eileen Smith’s take and here’s Juanita Jean’s take