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Cancer biologist Inder Verma has resigned from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, California, in the wake of sexual harassment allegations. 

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Leading Salk scientist resigns after allegations of harassment

The prominent cancer biologist Inder Verma unconditionally resigned from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, California, last Wednesday, 6 June, and this morning the research institute’s board of trustees voted unanimously to accept his resignation.

Salk President Rusty Gage and Board Chairman Dan Lewis made the announcement in a letter sent today to Salk colleagues that reads, in part:

This morning, Salk’s Board of Trustees met to discuss the findings of the Institute’s investigation into allegations against Dr. Inder Verma….Based on the findings of the investigator, the Institute has considered appropriate responsive action.  

Last week, prior to the board concluding its discussions regarding the investigation and taking formal action, Dr. Verma tendered his unconditional resignation.  This morning, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to accept it.

The letter said Salk would not share further details of the confidential personnel matter.

“This has been a challenging time for the Institute,” Lewis and Gage added. “We have been heartened by the way the Salk community has come together and worked together to face these challenges.”

In March, Salk hired The Rose Group, a San Diego employment law firm, to investigate allegations of sexual harassment against Verma, 70, a pioneer in gene therapy and oncogene research who was hired at Salk in 1974. In April, Salk suspended Verma after Science sent the institute a list of questions about allegations of sexual harassment against him. A few days later, Science described allegations made by eight women, six of them affiliated with Salk, of harassment incidents spanning 40 years. Verma denied the allegations in a statement that read in part: “I have never inappropriately touched, nor have I made any sexually charged comments, to anyone affiliated with the Salk Institute.”

Salk is also facing gender discrimination lawsuits from three senior female scientists who allege the institute is an “old boys club” that systematically obstructed their career advancement. The lawsuits are scheduled to come to trial in December.