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Texas cancer agency names new science chief

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Texas' embattled, $3 billion cancer-fighting agency has chosen a successor for its science chief, who quit in disgust over what he believed to be insufficient scientific reviews for grant applications.

Meanwhile, the agency's chairman is asking the Texas attorney general's office to investigate an $11 million grant improperly awarded to a private company.

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas announced Monday the appointment of Dr. Margaret L. Kripke as its chief scientific officer. The retired chief academic officer at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston succeeds Dr. Alfred Gilman, a Nobel laureate who resigned after the approval of a $20 million award that never received a full scientific review and was only six pages long.

The money was for a so-called incubator project at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, one of the country's top research institutes. Inflammatory internal emails later released by the agency included one from Gilman, in which he wrote, "I told (executive director Bill) Gimson this was the bomb that would destroy CPRIT."

Dozens of the agency's outside peer reviewers resigned alongside Gilman, one of whom accused the agency of "hucksterism." The resignation letters of others expressed concerns of politics playing a bigger role in funding decisions than science.

The appointment of Kripke, who recently finished a nine-year term on the three-member President's Cancer Panel, appears to be an effort to repair the dent in the institute's credibility.

Meanwhile, CPRIT Chairman James Mansour has directed Gimson to ask the attorney general's office to seek affidavits from anyone associated or formerly associated with Dallas-based Peloton Therapeutics. CPRIT awarded the taxpayer-funded $11 million grant to Peloton without any review.

The Houston Chronicle reported Mansour made the request by email, a copy of which the Chronicle obtained.

Gimson has assumed blame for the grant, calling it an honest mistake and saying there's no evidence CPRIT staff stood to benefit from it.

A telephone messages left with Peloton late Monday wasn't returned.