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House Speaker calls for more investigations after abrupt resignations at Moffitt Cancer Center

Six have resigned so far amid questions about ties to China.

Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva is calling for further investigations into Moffitt Cancer Center and any other Florida institutions that conduct medical research after the abrupt resignation of Moffitt CEO Alan List and other top executives.

List resigned under pressure Wednesday after an internal investigation found List had violated conflict of interest guidelines through personal involvement with a Chinese initiative that recruits researchers from American and European universities and companies.

The investigation launched after federal agencies warned of potential foreign exploitation of American-backed research.

Moffitt Vice President Thomas Sellers and four researchers also resigned after being similarly implicated in the investigation.

“The news coming out of Moffitt Cancer Center are of great concern and compel further investigation. While Moffitt’s leadership acted swiftly and decisively, a deeper look into this and all of our institutions is in order,” Oliva said. “To these ends, I have asked Speaker-designate and former prosecutor, Representative Chris Sprowls, to lead our preliminary investigative efforts.”

Sprowls condemned the resigned officials in a Tweet Wednesday.

“The actions of Moffitt’s CEO and implicated researchers are indefensible. To accept vast sums of public money — state and Federal — and then have the CEO and other employees secretly accepting money from China violates the public trust,” he wrote. “We need to take a hard look at what is going on at Florida’s research institutions that receive public money. We cannot allow China or other foreign governments to covertly exploit American research paid for by American taxpayers.”

Concerns about China’s potential exploitation of American research has reached a fever pitch. Investigations now include the National Institutes of Health, which serves as a major funding source for medical research.

“Floridians, and all Americans, should be greatly concerned at both the potential theft of intellectual property and the corruption it implies. Compromising our public health and research institutions puts all of us at risk,” Oliva said. “The Florida House will do everything in our power to hold people, and institutions, accountable.”

Moffitt launched a national search for a new CEO. The board’s chairman, Timothy Adams, will manage operations until List’s replacement is hired.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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