MD Anderson addresses national threat of foreign influence

The impact of foreign influence across multiple sectors of the United States economy continues to be a national concern. Specific to academia and health care, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has raised concerns regarding the security of intellectual property and the integrity of the peer review process for biomedical research, which was outlined by NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins in an August 2018 statement. Three areas of concern that emerged were diversion of intellectual property, sharing of confidential information on grant applications and failure by some researchers to disclose substantial resources from outside organizations, including foreign entities, which threatens to distort decisions about appropriate use of NIH funds.

Like many institutions across the country, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has been impacted. The institution has responded to requests from the NIH regarding a variety of threats, including data security and intellectual property loss. It’s important to note that no patient information was accessed or shared.

MD Anderson remains committed to the highest levels of scientific integrity, public accountability and social responsibility in the conduct of science, said Peter WT Pisters, M.D., president of MD Anderson. “We do so with an unending focus on ethics, our core value of Integrity and a shared commitment to maintain the extraordinary levels of trust the public has placed in us.”

As the recipient of taxpayer and donor support for innovative research, MD Anderson is focused on protecting the institution, its people and its resources. Steps have been taken to safeguard the institution, including development of a cutting-edge approach to Enterprise Risk Management. Efforts to increase awareness and education regarding enhancement of data security and management of conflict of interest have been prioritized and strengthened throughout the institution.

“We have an obligation to do all we can to protect our intellectual property and all state and federal resources entrusted to us,” said Pisters. “We must be vigilant in protecting the outstanding work of our faculty and ensuring our continued ability to conduct world-class research in our pursuit to end cancer.”