The Company You Keep


Leonard Zwelling

         Most of us have had the experience. We have a new friend.
The parents don’t approve or our other friends don’t either. It could be sheer
prejudice–racial, religious or sexual orientation. It could be that the new
friend is from the wrong church, or wrong school, or wrong side of the tracks.
Why should anyone care about your new friend?

         Your parents care because they don’t want you hurt by
someone they believe to be odd or unusual or just “other.” They also don’t want
their reputations or yours damaged in any way by what other people might think
about your new relationship. It is true. You are judged by others based on
those with whom you associate.

         So how does Dr. DePinho get away with remaining hidden in the
stories of the latest revelation about the fraud and failure at the company
that he and his wife started called Aveo? Why is this guy like Teflon? Nothing

         My hypothesis is that he either has friends in low places or
is just lucky. My next hypothesis is that his luck is running out despite
efforts by the editorial board of the Houston
, the chair of the Board of Visitors, and DePinho’s supporters in

         Let’s just look at his associates in Houston. Whatever his
wife was in charge of initially, she is not any longer. One of his new basic
science department chairs is having research results examined under the shadow
of misconduct allegations. His immediate surrounding leadership team has not
really done a whole lot of anything and are either despised, mocked, or both by
the majority of the faculty. The one drug he developed failed dismally and the
moonshots seem to brag about a combination of cashing in on work done before
DePinho got here and a truly lackluster list of accomplishments with regard to
altering the natural history of cancer in humans, mice maybe, but not humans.

         At some point, and hopefully that will be after 5 years,
someone in a position of authority in Austin has got to pull the plug on this
nonsense of scorched earth academic management combined with scientific
incompetence aside from Jim Allison.

         Dr. DePinho tried to form a winning team by buying it. It
rarely worked for the Yankees, the Redskins, or the Knicks and it seems to be
no more successful in academic medicine.

         Dr. DePinho has associated himself with people who believe
self-dealing, nepotism, conflict of interest, and fraud are a way of life and
acceptable business practices. Time to pay the piper and Mommy or Daddy in
Austin shouldn’t be allowed to save you.

         It is time to judge Dr. DePinho’s performance on just that,
his performance. What has he really accomplished and how much has he spent and
what has the institution gained from these expenditures? My guess is the debits
and credits will add up to red ink.

         I have no idea what has taken the Chancellor so long to fix
this problem. While he is messing up the acquisition of 300 acres of land for a
science park near the site of AstroWorld in a successful attempt to annoy half
the Houston legislative delegation, his attention should be focused on the
jewel in the crown of the UT health components that is being cheapened on a
regular basis by ethical lapses and bad judgment.

         I am not sure what the Chancellor is waiting for. A GO
signal from the President of the US? This is not happening at Abbottabad. This
is all on Holcombe for all the world to see. For goodness sake, Admiral, fix
this! It’s Zero Dark Twenty-Nine!

Leonard Zwelling