Dr. Alan List, the president and CEO of Moffitt Cancer Center, and Timothy Sellers, the center director, have resigned.
They stepped down following violations of conflict of interest rules through their work in China, according to a news release late Wednesday from Moffitt.
There’s no indication that the violations affected patient care or compromised Moffitt research, the organization said.
Timothy Adams, institute board chairman, will assume overall operational responsibilities while a national CEO search is underway.
Moffitt, based in Tampa, is the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in Florida, and one of only 51 in the United States. It also has been consistently ranked as a top 10 cancer hospital by U.S. News & World Report.
Moffitt has paired with foreign academics and researchers for more than a decade, a practice previously encouraged by the U.S. government. However, there’s been concern in recent years about foreign interests targeting U.S. universities and academic medical centers to duplicate technology and intellectual property, the news release said.
A warning from the National Institutes of Health to grant recipients about foreign efforts to influence or compromise U.S. researchers led Moffitt to begin an internal review of team members’ collaborations with research institutions in China. The review focused on its team members’ participation in China’s “Thousand Talents” Program, which recruits global researchers and academics.
Moffitt found several compliance violations that also prompted separation of four additional researchers, who were not named in the news release.
Moffitt said it has shared the preliminary findings of its ongoing review with the federal government and will continue to examine its internal procedures for the protection of its intellectual property.
“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,” said founder and former Speaker of the House H. Lee Moffitt, the organization’s namesake.
Moffitt said it also is 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, who was named Moffitt CEO in 2012, was inducted earlier this year into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame. He was the 2018 chairman of the Tampa Bay Economic Development Corp.