(1) The William G. “Bill” Bankhead, Jr., and David Coley Cancer Research Program, which may be otherwise cited as the “Bankhead-Coley Program,” is created within the Department of Health. The purpose of the program shall be to advance progress towards cures for cancer through grants awarded through a peer-reviewed, competitive process.
(2) The program shall provide grants for cancer research to further the search for cures for cancer. (a) Emphasis shall be given to the following goals, as those goals support the advancement of such cures: 1. Efforts to significantly expand cancer research capacity in the state by:
a. Identifying ways to attract new research talent and attendant national grant-producing researchers to cancer research facilities in this state;
b. Implementing a peer-reviewed, competitive process to identify and fund the best proposals to expand cancer research institutes in this state;
c. Funding through available resources for those proposals that demonstrate the greatest opportunity to attract federal research grants and private financial support;
d. Encouraging the employment of bioinformatics in order to create a cancer informatics infrastructure that enhances information and resource exchange and integration through researchers working in diverse disciplines, to facilitate the full spectrum of cancer investigations;
e. Facilitating the technical coordination, business development, and support of intellectual property as it relates to the advancement of cancer research; and
f. Aiding in other multidisciplinary research-support activities as they inure to the advancement of cancer research.
2. Efforts to improve both research and treatment through greater participation in clinical trials networks by:
a. Identifying ways to increase adult enrollment in cancer clinical trials;
b. Supporting public and private professional education programs designed to increase the awareness and knowledge about cancer clinical trials;
c. Providing tools to cancer patients and community-based oncologists to aid in the identification of cancer clinical trials available in the state; and
d. Creating opportunities for the state’s academic cancer centers to collaborate with community-based oncologists in cancer clinical trials networks.
3. Efforts to reduce the impact of cancer on disparate groups by:
a. Identifying those cancers that disproportionately impact certain demographic groups; and
b. Building collaborations designed to reduce health disparities as they relate to cancer.
(b) Preference may be given to grant proposals that foster collaborations among institutions, researchers, and community practitioners, as such proposals support the advancement of cures through basic or applied research, including clinical trials involving cancer patients and related networks.
(3)(a) Applications for funding for cancer research may be submitted by any university or established research institute in the state. All qualified investigators in the state, regardless of institutional affiliation, shall have equal access and opportunity to compete for the research funding. Collaborative proposals, including those that advance the program’s goals enumerated in subsection (2), may be given preference. Grants shall be awarded by the State Surgeon General, after consultation with the Biomedical Research Advisory Council, on the basis of scientific merit, as determined by an open, competitive peer review process that ensures objectivity, consistency, and high quality. The following types of applications shall be considered for funding:
1. Investigator-initiated research grants.
2. Institutional research grants.
3. Collaborative research grants, including those that advance the finding of cures through basic or applied research.
(b) In order to ensure that all proposals for research funding are appropriate and are evaluated fairly on the basis of scientific merit, the State Surgeon General, in consultation with the council, shall appoint a peer review panel of independent, scientifically qualified individuals to review the scientific content of each proposal and establish its priority score. The priority scores shall be forwarded to the council and must be considered in determining which proposals shall be recommended for funding.
(c) The council and the peer review panel shall establish and follow rigorous guidelines for ethical conduct and adhere to a strict policy with regard to conflicts of interest. A member of the council or panel may not participate in any discussion or decision with respect to a research proposal by any firm, entity, or agency with which the member is associated as a member of the governing body or as an employee or with which the member has entered into a contractual arrangement. Meetings of the council and the peer review panels are subject to chapter 119, s. 286.011, and s. 24, Art. I of the State Constitution.
(4) By December 15 of each year, the Department of Health shall submit to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a report indicating progress towards the program’s mission and making recommendations that further its purpose.
(5) The William G. “Bill” Bankhead, Jr., and David Coley Cancer Research Program is funded pursuant to s. 215.5602(12). Funds appropriated for the William G. “Bill” Bankhead, Jr., and David Coley Cancer Research Program shall be distributed pursuant to this section to provide grants to researchers seeking cures for cancer and cancer-related illnesses, with emphasis given to the goals enumerated in this section. From the total funds appropriated, an amount of up to 10 percent may be used for administrative expenses. From funds appropriated to accomplish the goals of this section, up to $250,000 shall be available for the operating costs of the Florida Center for Universal Research to Eradicate Disease.