In 2007, Texans voted to give their scientists as much as $3 billion over 10 years to conduct groundbreaking cancer research. The money is supposed to start flowing to researchers this fall.
But scientists say the cancer research initiative may face a major roadblock: Not one penny can be distributed unless researchers can also come up with large sums from a different source.
For every dollar granted by the state, the Texas Constitution requires researchers to come up with 50 cents on their own - as much as $1.5 billion over the next decade. With the economy in recession and federal funding tight, researchers say it could be hard to find those matching funds.
"In this economy ... where is this $1.5 billion going to come from?" said Dr. Daniel Foster, professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and past president of The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas.
Scientists also say the state may be trying to award money too quickly in its first year, operating on a schedule that could result in hastily written research proposals that don't meet the highest scientific standards.
The state is now getting down to the nuts-and-bolts of distributing the funds. The Legislature is still debating how much money will be granted.
The Senate has asked to fund the maximum amount allowed - $300 million per year for the next two years. The House is requesting only half that. The cancer institute's executive director, Bill Gimson, came on the job last month and said his first priority is to hire a chief scientific officer to get grant applications moving through the review process. He said he hopes to solicit applications in August.
But the big unanswered question is where to come up with money to supplement the state awards. The provision for 50 percent matching funds was inserted late in the 2007 legislative process to get the bill through the House.