ETF official joins funded company’s board

A former Texas Emerging Technology Fund official is now on the board of the biotechnology company that received the second-largest non-research grant in the fund’s history and caused controversy three years ago by allegedly circumventing the fund’s normal approval process.

Bob Pearson, a former member of the ETF’s 17-member advisory committee, has joined the board of Genprex Inc., an Austin-based biopharmaceutical company founded in 2009 as Convergen LifeSciences Inc. by Gov. Rick Perry campaign donor David Nance. In 2011, Convergen attracted a measure of attention after it collected a $4.5 million grant from the ETF without approval by the Central Texas Regional Center of Innovation and Commercialization.

The ETF, which is managed by Perry’s office, typically requires grant applicants to go through a multi-step review process before being awarded state money. The Convergen grant sparked allegations of political influence and calls for greater transparency in ETF operations. Lawmakers sharply reduced the amount of capital it allocated to the ETF, which consequently slowed its investment activities statewide.