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Business Observer Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019 1 year ago

Prominent medical center CEO resigns amid conflict of interest claims

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Dr. Alan List has been with Moffitt Cancer Center since 2003, and CEO since 2012.

TAMPA — Globally known cancer physician and health care executive Dr. Alan List has resigned as CEO of Moffitt Cancer Center. His departure is one of several related to what the prominent facility, in a statement, calls “violations of conflict of interest rules through their work in China.”

Moffitt Cancer Center Director Thomas Sellers and four additional researchers also resigned, the release adds. Moffitt board chairman Timothy Adams will assume overall operational responsibilities while a national CEO search is underway.

The resignations stem from an internal review of team members’ collaborations with research institutions in China after the National Institutes of Health, in 2018, warned all its grant recipients of foreign efforts to influence or compromise U.S. researchers, the release states. Moffitt found several compliance violations.

“At Moffitt, we pride ourselves not only on our life-saving research and world-class patient care, but also on transparency and integrity among all our employees. This was an unfortunate but necessary decision,” Adams says in the statement.

Moffitt’s review focused on its team members’ participation in China’s “Thousand Talents” Program, which recruits global researchers and academics. Moffitt has shared the preliminary findings of its ongoing review with federal officials, the release states, and will continue to examine its internal procedures for the protection of its intellectual property.

There is no indication Moffitt research was compromised or patient care affected, officials say in the release, and the departures will not disrupt treatment to patients currently under Moffitt’s care.

Moffitt officials, in the statement, acknowledged the Chinese situation brought up by federal officials.

“The open exchange of ideas and Moffitt’s culture of innovative collaboration have made it a global leader in developing breakthrough research to save lives through the prevention, treatment and cure of cancer,” the release states. “Recognizing the war on cancer transcends borders, Moffitt more than a decade ago seized the opportunity to pair with foreign academics and researchers, a practice encouraged by the U.S. government. However, in recent years, the federal government has become concerned about foreign interests targeting U.S. universities and academic medical centers to duplicate technology and intellectual property.”

Moffitt Cancer Center founder and former Florida Speaker of the House H. Lee Moffitt, in the statement, says “this great institution did its job: We listened to the warnings from NIH, conducted a proactive review, and took strong action when it was needed.”

Moffitt officials area also thoroughly reviewing its 12-year partnership with China’s Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital for the training of oncology practitioners, including through international exchanges.

List has been with Moffitt since 2003, when he was named chief of the Malignant Hematology Division. He was named executive vice president and physician in chief in 2008, and promoted to president and CEO in 2012.

List, inducted into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame in April, also holds eight patents and has been a pioneer in the area of personalized and precision medicine —treatment methods that target cancer and other genetic diseases at the molecular or cellular level. He's developed therapies that have been particularly effective at fighting cancers of the blood.

 

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