Tampa, Fla.-based H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute on Dec. 18 accepted the resignations of President and CEO Alan F. List, MD, and Thomas Sellers, an executive vice president and center director at Moffitt, the cancer center announced.
In a news release, Moffitt said the resignations were due to violations of conflict-of-interest rules through the work the center director and CEO did in China. An internal compliance review led up to the resignations.
“Moffitt initiated an internal review of team members’ collaborations with research institutions in China after the National Institutes of Health warned all its grant recipients of foreign efforts to influence or compromise U.S. researchers,” Moffitt said. “Moffitt found several compliance violations that also prompted separation of four additional researchers.”
Timothy Adams, Moffitt’s board chairman, will become interim CEO and president.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that the compliance violations were primarily associated with cancer center employees’ personal involvement in China’s “Thousand Talents” program, which aims to recruit global researchers and academics.
Mr. Adams said in the news release: “At Moffitt, we pride ourselves not only on our lifesaving research and world-class patient care, but also on transparency and integrity among all our employees. This was an unfortunate but necessary decision.”
“Going forward, this will not damage the future of our research or the care of our patients. We will continue to be careful stewards of the public money entrusted to us for cancer research. Moffitt is proud to have 7,000 of the finest medical professionals in the world fighting every day to treat and cure cancer. That is what mattered yesterday, and that is what will matter tomorrow,” he added.
Former Florida House Speaker H. Lee Moffitt, the cancer center’s namesake, also addressed the matter, saying in the news release: “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.”
Dr. List, who previously was Moffitt’s executive vice president and physician-in-chief as well as chief of the malignant hematology division, could not immediately be reached by the Times for comment.
Moffitt continues to conduct a review, including examining its research and education partnership with China’s Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital. Moffitt said nothing indicates that the cancer center’s research was compromised or patient care affected.