The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, CA, has put prominent Indian American scientist Inder Verma on administrative leave following allegations of inappropriate conduct against him.
The institute has hired The Rose Group, a San Diego-based employment law and consulting firm, to investigate allegations against 70-year-old Verma, considered a leading name in cancer and gene therapy.
“Recently, the institute became aware of allegations concerning Inder Verma,” Dan Lewis, chairman of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies said in a statement quoted by PTI. “Consistent with Salk’s policies governing workplace conduct, the institute has undertaken a formal investigation that is being led by an independent outside party.”
“Verma has been placed on administrative leave, pending the outcome of the investigation. He will not be performing scientific or administrative roles on behalf of the institute during this period,” he said.
According to reports, three female Salk scientists — Vicki Lundblad, Katherine Jones and Beverly Emerson — sued the institute for gender discrimination and said their careers were impeded because of they were women. Verma told the San Diego Union-Tribune that the leave had stemmed from these lawsuits the scientists filed against the Institute.
“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,” he said in a statement to Science.
“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,” said Verma.
Verma stepped down from his role as editor-in-chief of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America in 2017 after being named in the gender discrimination lawsuit.