Letter From the CEO
CPRIT’s 2021 Annual Report highlights the eleventh year of cancer research and prevention awards made in service of CPRIT’s historical three-part mission to invest in Texas’ research prowess, create and expand life science infrastructure across the state, and expedite innovation in cancer research and prevention strategies.
2021 was an exceptional year, marked by several notable “firsts” and other milestones.
- The first CPRIT-funded drug, Welireg, is available now to treat several types of tumors associated with von Hippel-Lindau disease, a rare genetic condition. Welireg is the first drug of its type to receive FDA approval.
- Texas recruited the 250th CPRIT Scholar to the state in 2021. CPRIT’s extraordinarily successful recruitment program draws world-class scientists at all career stages to Texas universities and cancer research institutes, giving the state a competitive edge in attracting the world’s preeminent researchers, greatly enhancing programs of scientific excellence, and promoting economic development.
- The Oversight Committee awarded several first-time grants in 2021, including CPRIT’s first Clinical Trials Network Research Awards and Texas Clinical Trial Participation Program Awards – both aimed at increasing Texans’ access to innovative clinical trials in the state. Two institutions, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and Southern Methodist University, received their first CPRIT grants this year, joining 115 other institutions, organizations, and companies throughout Texas with CPRIT awards. CPRIT also awarded its inaugural Texas Regional Excellence in Cancer (TREC) grants to The University of Texas at El Paso and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. The TREC awards catalyze cancer research recruitment, projects, and infrastructure at institutions located more than 100 miles from traditional cancer research powerhouses in the state’s major metropolitan areas.
- Michelle Le Beau joined CPRIT as our fourth Chief Scientific Officer. She follows the esteemed legacy of Nobel Laureate Dr. Al Gilman, Dr. Margaret Kripke, and Dr. James Willson. Together with Chief Product Development Officer Dr. Cindy WalkerPeach and Chief Prevention Officer Ramona Magid, the addition of Dr. Le Beau means that women fill all chief program officer roles at CPRIT for the first time in our history.
- Bills filed in the 87th Legislative Session aimed to create two new research institutes – one for brain health and one for infectious diseases – modeled on CPRIT. We have worked hard to serve as an example for the country and the world on implementing bold approaches to tackling the biggest health research and technology challenges. Texans have blazed a trail with CPRIT, and we look forward to the promise of new state initiatives that will expand scientific frontiers and address pressing health care issues by leveraging Texas’ investment in biotechnology and our unequaled entrepreneurial culture.
- After 21 months and 50+ virtual board and subcommittee meetings necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Oversight Committee convened its first in-person meeting on November 18, 2021. I am proud that CPRIT’s staff and our grantees transitioned adeptly to a new normal, and I am grateful for the scientists that have worked for years to be ready with vaccines and treatments to meet this challenge. Specialized microscopes funded by CPRIT for cutting-edge cancer research played a double role during the pandemic, helping scientists at The University of Texas at Austin create the first 3D atomic scale map of the COVID-19 spike protein. Pharmaceutical companies used their discovery for the antigen in the COVID-19 vaccines.
- The State Auditor’s Office completed a comprehensive audit of CPRIT’s grant management functions in September 2021, concluding that CPRIT has processes and related controls in place to help ensure that it awards and monitors grants in accordance with state law, rules, and CPRIT policies and procedures. While this may seem like a dry, bureaucratic item to include in an otherwise exciting list of notable milestones for 2021, our clean audit underscores CPRIT’s dedication to integrity and transparency. Conflict-free, unbiased review is at the heart of identifying and funding the most promising cancer research and development projects and providing access to vital cancer prevention services across the state. Ensuring that grantees use state funds consistent with CPRIT’s mission is the work of everyone with CPRIT, but we rely upon the behind-the-scenes and mostly unsung efforts of dedicated compliance, grant accounting, operations, and IT staff to maintain the high standards Texans expect from this signature initiative.
Despite the many stories and program highlights emphasized in this report showing how CPRIT extends lives and improves the health of Texans, they also serve to remind us how important Texas’ $2.86 billion investment in 1,679 CPRIT awards (through August 31, 2021) is to this state. Despite advances made in Texas and globally in the war on cancer, this insidious disease remains the leading cause of death for Texans under the age of 85, with 127 people dying from cancer every day in the state. More children and adolescents - 237 in 2021 - die from cancer in Texas than any other disease.
As horrific the emotional and physical toll of cancer is, the economic impact also staggers. Cancer cost the state $47.7 billion in direct medical costs and mortality losses in 2021, up from $44.7 billion in 2020 and $42.5 billion in 2019. Given Texas’ emerging demographics and growing population, the state’s cost of cancer is unlikely to decline until scientists translate groundbreaking discoveries into widely available treatments and prevention screenings are accessible to all Texans.
This mission is what drives CPRIT and its hundreds of grantees every day. CPRIT knows from first-hand experience that Texas is growing faster than any other state in fields that support a booming life science ecosystem, a key to tackling the next generation of cancer cures and treatments. These include information technology, computer sciences, and artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Texas has the resources and the strong, bipartisan track record for implementing bold approaches in addressing big health research and technology challenges. The state’s historic, voter-approved initiative to invest $6 billion for cancer research and prevention efforts in Texas is testament to that ingenuity. Programs like the Texas Enterprise Fund, Texas University Research Initiative, Texas Comprehensive Research Fund, the former Texas Emerging Technology Fund, and other mechanisms and special item funding through which Texas appropriates around $3.5 billion annually are also evidence of the state’s unequaled investment in our bioresearch and translational innovation infrastructure.
With vision and continued commitment, Texas is poised to take health research and technology leadership away from the East and West Coasts. The state’s diverse and talented workforce and entrepreneurial culture position Texas to be uniquely ready to tackle the biggest health research and technology challenges facing our country. Based on our track record and experience, CPRIT is prepared to assist the state to enter new frontiers.
Texas innovation drives discoveries, but health care transformation must keep patients at its core. Texas has the most diverse population in the country, growing three times more rapidly than any other state over the past 20 years. As one of the first majority/minority states, Texas’ population reflects the future face of the U.S. The state’s demographics also make Texas the ideal location for patient-centered research funded by CPRIT. Clinical trials, health equity initiatives, and accessibility studies undertaken here will make real and practical improvements in the lives of Texans.
We are grateful for those individuals and organizations striving to reduce the burden of cancer across Texas. Their dedication and support inspire us in our efforts. On behalf of the Oversight Committee and staff, we appreciate the opportunity the citizens of Texas and state leadership have given us to have made 2021 another productive year.
Through CPRIT and in thousands of personal ways, Texans Conquer Cancer.
Wayne R. Roberts
Chief Executive Officer
Building on the momentum launched by Texas voters 14 years ago and reauthorized by a decisive statewide vote in November 2019, CPRIT and its grantees advanced innovative research and prevention efforts across the state. Fiscal year 2021 marked a year of milestones, including its 250th CPRIT Scholar recruited to Texas, $300 million invested in prevention services, and the first CPRIT-funded drug approval.
As CPRIT looks ahead to the next decade, we are guided by our three-part mission: investing in the research prowess of Texas institutions; creating and expanding the state’s life science ecosystem; and expediting innovation and enhancing the potential of breakthroughs in research, prevention, and cures.
Created by Texans, CPRIT carries out its mission through its Academic Research, Prevention, and Product Development Research programs. The appointed members of CPRIT’s governing body, the Oversight Committee, oversee the agency’s administrative and financial activities so that CPRIT can reduce the burden of cancer across the state.
The Cost of Cancer
Texas pays for cancer through reduced annual spending, output losses, and lost jobs attributable to cancer treatment, morbidity and mortality, and the associated spillover effects. The Perryman Group updated its economic assessment of the annual cost of cancer in Texas and the benefits of CPRIT and its program for fiscal year 2021.
Planning and Priorities
Accelerating innovation in cancer research and prevention requires comprehensive planning for current operations and well as longer-term goals. With a solid foundation of research innovation and prevention serves built through 11 years of steady investment, CPRIT has positioned the state for new life science opportunities.
Our Commitment to Texans
CPRIT distributes public funds to cure and mitigate cancer with the highest standards of ethics, accountability, efficiency, and transparency. This begins by awarding grants using rigorous, independent, unbiased, merit-based peer review. CPRIT’s Compliance Program oversees all aspects of the grant application review, approval and award administration process to ensure a sound fiscal and organizational foundation.