Promi­nent can­cer bi­ol­o­gist In­der Ver­ma re­signs from Salk in wake of sex­u­al ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tions

Fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions of sex­u­al ha­rass­ment, In­der Ver­ma, a promi­nent can­cer bi­ol­o­gist not­ed for his con­tri­bu­tion to the fields of gene ther­a­py and im­muno-on­col­o­gy, has re­signed from the Salk In­sti­tute for Bi­o­log­i­cal Stud­ies.

The San Diego-based in­sti­tute said Ver­ma re­signed on June 6, days be­fore the board of trustees were sched­uled to re­view the in­sti­tute’s for­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to al­le­ga­tions against him. The board had con­vened to­day to dis­cuss those find­ings — based on which “ap­pro­pri­ate re­spon­sive ac­tion” had been con­sid­ered — but end­ed up vot­ing unan­i­mous­ly to ac­cept his res­ig­na­tion.

In April, Sci­ence pub­lished a de­tailed ac­count of al­le­ga­tions made by eight women who said that Ver­ma “grabbed their breasts, pinched their but­tocks, forcibly kissed them, propo­si­tioned them, and re­peat­ed­ly com­ment­ed on their phys­i­cal at­trib­ut­es in pro­fes­sion­al set­tings.” Among them were a Salk lab tech­ni­cian, a post­doc­tor­al re­searcher, oth­er Salk staffers and fac­ul­ty, and women out­side of the in­sti­tute who had pro­fes­sion­al en­coun­ters with Ver­ma. Five were named while three re­quest­ed anonymi­ty.

Salk sus­pend­ed Ver­ma, who first joined in 1974, when the in­sti­tute re­ceived a list of ques­tions from Sci­ence writer Mered­ith Wad­man a few days pri­or to the sto­ry’s pub­li­ca­tion and saw claims that the in­sti­tute “was not pre­vi­ous­ly aware of.” That led them to al­so ex­pand the scope of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion on Ver­ma that be­gan in Feb­ru­ary in re­sponse to oth­er al­le­ga­tions.

At that time, Ver­ma de­nied the al­le­ga­tions through a state­ment to the me­dia:

I have nev­er used my po­si­tion at the Salk In­sti­tute to take ad­van­tage of oth­ers. I have al­so nev­er en­gaged in any sort of in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ship with any­one af­fil­i­at­ed with the Salk In­sti­tute. I have nev­er in­ap­pro­pri­ate­ly touched, nor have I made any sex­u­al­ly charged com­ments, to any­one af­fil­i­at­ed with the Salk In­sti­tute. I have nev­er al­lowed any of­fen­sive or sex­u­al­ly charged con­ver­sa­tions, jokes, ma­te­r­i­al, etc. to oc­cur at the Salk In­sti­tute.

Ver­ma’s de­par­ture may mark an end to his episode of the #MeToo move­ment, but Salk’s ten­sion with women among its ranks is far from over.

In 2017, three fe­male Salk se­nior sci­en­tists sued the in­sti­tute for gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion. Bi­ol­o­gists Kather­ine Jones, Vic­ki Lund­blad and Bev­er­ly Emer­son each filed law­suits ac­cus­ing Salk of be­ing an “old boys’ club” where women were shut out of op­por­tu­ni­ties and con­sis­tent­ly un­der­val­ued.

As a re­sult of the law­suits, Ver­ma — who was named in two of them for im­ped­ing fe­male sci­en­tists’ ca­reer ad­vance­ment — was placed on leave as ed­i­tor-in-chief of the pres­ti­gious Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tion­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences (PNAS) jour­nal. He re­signed from the po­si­tion in May.

The law­suits are ex­pect­ed to go to tri­al in De­cem­ber.


Im­age: In­der Ver­ma. SALK

At the In­flec­tion Point for the Next Gen­er­a­tion of Can­cer Im­munother­a­py

While oncology researchers have long pursued the potential of cellular immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer, it was unclear whether these therapies would ever reach patients due to the complexity of manufacturing and costs of development. Fortunately, the recent successful development and regulatory approval of chimeric antigen receptor-engineered T (CAR-T) cells have demonstrated the significant benefit of these therapies to patients.

All about Omi­cron; We need more Covid an­tivi­rals; GSK snags Pfiz­er’s vac­cine ex­ec; Janet Wood­cock’s fu­ture at FDA; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

The slate of products we’re offering here at Endpoints is continuing to grow, and it’s not just limited to editorial. If you haven’t, do visit your reader profile to see if there are any other weekly newsletters you’re interested in — as each comes with its own exclusive content. And don’t miss the publisher’s note from Arsalan Arif on Endpoints Studio, our latest avenue for advertising on Endpoints.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 124,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Merck's new antiviral molnupiravir (Quality Stock Arts / Shutterstock)

As Omi­cron spread looms, oral an­tivi­rals ap­pear to be one of the best de­fens­es — now we just need more

After South African scientists reported a new Covid-19 variant — dubbed Omicron by the WHO — scientists became concerned about how effective vaccines and monoclonal antibodies might be against it, which has more than 30 mutations in the spike protein.

“I think it is super worrisome,” Dartmouth professor and Adagio co-founder and CEO Tillman Gerngross told Endpoints News this weekend. Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel echoed similar concerns, telling the Financial Times that experts warned him, “This is not going to be good.”

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 124,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Lisa Deschamps, AviadoBio CEO

Ex-No­var­tis busi­ness head hops over to a gene ther­a­py start­up — and she's reeled in $80M for a dash to the clin­ic

Neurologist and King’s College London professor Christopher Shaw has been researching neurodegenerative diseases like ALS and collaborating with drugmakers for the last 25 years in the hopes of pushing new therapies forward. But unfortunately, none of those efforts have come anywhere close to fruition.

“So, you know, after 20 years in the game, I said, ‘Let’s try and do it ourselves,’” he told Endpoints News. 

In­cor­po­rat­ing Ex­ter­nal Da­ta in­to Clin­i­cal Tri­als: Com­par­ing Dig­i­tal Twins to Ex­ter­nal Con­trol Arms

Most drug development professionals are familiar with the nerve-racking wait for the read-out of a large trial. If it’s negative, is the investigational therapy ineffective? Or could the failure result from an unforeseen flaw in the design or execution of the protocol, rather than a lack of efficacy? The team could spend weeks analyzing data, but a definitive answer may be elusive due to insufficient power for such analyses in the already completed trial. These problems are only made worse if the trial had lower enrollment, or higher dropout than expected due to an unanticipated event like COVID-19. And if a trial is negative, the next one is likely to be larger and more costly — if it happens at all.

Ab­b­Vie tacks on a new warn­ing to Rin­voq la­bel as safe­ty frets crimp JAK class

The safety problems that continue to plague the JAK class as new data highlight some severe side effects are casting a large shadow over AbbVie’s Rinvoq.

As a result of a recent readout highlighting major adverse cardiac events (MACE), malignancy, mortality and thrombosis with Xeljanz a couple of months ago, AbbVie put out a notice late Friday afternoon that it is adding the new class risks to its label for their rival drug.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 124,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Biospec­i­men M&A: Dis­cov­ery ac­quires Al­bert Li's he­pa­to­cyte project; PhI­II tri­al on Bay­er's Nube­qa reached pri­ma­ry end­point

Discovery Life Sciences has acquired what claims to be the Maryland-based host of the world’s largest hepatocyte inventory, known as IVAL, to help researchers select more effective and safer drug candidates in the future.

The combined companies will now serve a wider range of drug research and development scientists, according to Albert Li, who founded IVAL in 2004 and is set to join the Discovery leadership team as the CSO of pharmacology and toxicology.

Pfiz­er, Am­gen and Janssen seek fur­ther clar­i­ty on FDA's new ben­e­fit-risk guid­ance

Three top biopharma companies are seeking more details from the FDA on how the agency conducts its benefit-risk assessments for new drugs and biologics.

While Pfizer, Amgen and Janssen praised the agency for further spelling out its thinking on the subject in a new draft guidance, including a discussion of patient experience data as part of the assessment, the companies said the FDA could’ve included more specifics in the 20-page draft document.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 124,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Re­searchers move clos­er to de­ci­pher­ing blood clots from As­traZeneca, J&J's Covid-19 vac­cines

Researchers may be nearing an answer for the mysterious and life-threatening blood clots that appeared on very rare occasions in people who received the J&J or AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.

The new work builds on an early hypothesis researchers in Norway put forward last spring, when the cases first cropped up. They proposed the events were similar to blood clots that can occur in a small subset of patients who receive heparin, one of the most commonly used blood thinners.