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The Salk Institute for Biological Studies campus in San Diego, California


Salk Institute settles two of three gender discrimination lawsuits

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, California, and two of three female scientists who sued it for gender discrimination last summer announced today they have reached settlements in a lawsuit that was set to go to trial in December.

Salk President Rusty Gage and the two former plaintiffs, Kathy Jones and Vicki Lundblad, issued a joint statement Tuesday that reads, in part:

“In recent weeks the Institute’s leadership and Drs. Kathy Jones and Vicki Lundblad commenced discussions in hopes of resolving our disputes. Those productive conversations have led to a resolution of all claims between these parties that will enable us to put our disagreements behind us and move forward together at Salk for the collective good of the Institute and science.”

Jones, 63, an expert in the transcription of a gene’s DNA into RNA, and Lundblad, 65, who made her name with discoveries about telomeres, the DNA capping chromosome ends, were the first two of three women who sued the institute for gender discrimination in July 2017. Each alleged that Salk administrators disparaged their work, shut them out of advancement and funding opportunities, and pressured them to shrink their labs.

The third plaintiff, molecular biologist Beverly Emerson, 66, left Salk when her contract was not renewed in December 2017. Her lawyer, Alreen Haeggquist of the San Diego firm Haeggquist & Eck, said tonight: “Dr. Emerson intends to proceed until justice is fully achieved.” On 17 August, the judge in the case will rule on Salk’s motion to dismiss some elements of Emerson’s lawsuit.

Lundblad and Jones’s lawyer, Deborah Dixon of Gomez Trial Attorneys in San Diego, said tonight she could not discuss the terms of the settlement, which are confidential. She confirmed that both her clients will continue to work at Salk.

After the suits were filed, internal documents leaked to Science exposed long-standing gender tensions at the institute founded by polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk. Two of the lawsuits also accused a veteran Salk scientist, Inder Verma, of actively impeding the women’s advancement. Subsequently, eight women made sexual harassment allegations against Verma, who has since resigned from Salk.