Ousted Whitehead Institute Researcher David Sabatini Up for Position at NYU

David Sabatini_Whitehead Institute (MIT) courtesy

Biologist David Sabitini/Courtesy of the Whitehead Institute 

David Sabatini, who was ousted last year by the Whitehead Institute over allegations of sexual harassment, may have found a new home at the New York University (NYU) Grossman School of Medicine.

Sabatini, a noted cell biology researcher, has been fighting the charges brought against him. He filed a counter lawsuit against Whitehead last fall, alleging he is a victim of false claims. As BioSpace previously reported, Sabatini claimed in his lawsuit that the sexual relationship he had with his accuser was consensual. Sabatini maintained an HHMI-supported lab at the institute.

According to the lawsuit, Sabatini said he ended the relationship with his accuser in 2019. However, the accuser, who was a co-worker, did not want to end things and continued to seek a relationship with him, the lawsuit stated. Sabatini claims that he stressed “on multiple occasions that he did not want a long-term relationship” with the colleague. Once he ended the relationship, he claimed she sought revenge. Even after her allegations led to his dismissal from The Whitehead Institute, Sabatini alleges that the woman in question continued to make false statements regarding the alleged harassment.

Sabatini, who had also been a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, resigned from his position at the school earlier this year. He departed his post before he could be terminated for violating the school’s policy on consensual sexual relationships. MIT leadership also expressed “significant concerns regarding his professional behavior to some lab members,” Science reported.

Despite the ongoing legal drama over the allegations, NYU is looking to bring Sabatini on board. Citing sources from NYU, Science said the hiring discussions have been taking place for the past several weeks. Although there have been concerns raised about the allegations from current NYU staff, Science reported that the dean of the medical school sent an email to faculty and staff last week, condemning what he called “cancel culture.” The potential hiring of Sabatini has the support of Robert Grossman, the medical school dean, as well as Executive Vice President and Vice Dean for Science Dafna Bar-Sagi.

Sabatini certainly isn’t the only noted scientist to become embroiled in allegations of harassment. Earlier this year, concerns of harassment also rocked the White House’s top scientific office. Dr. Eric Lander, the director of the federal government’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), resigned from the post following allegations of bullying.

Lander, who is also the president and founding director of the Broad Institute, was accused of bullying and speaking in an unkind manner to multiple staff members, including his then-general counsel, Rachel Wallace, BioSpace previously reported. An internal investigation conducted by the White House corroborated the claims. The investigation found Lander had spoken “harshly and disrespectfully to colleagues in front of other colleagues.” When the investigation was concluded, Lander resigned from his post.

In February, Biden tapped some familiar faces to take over Lander’s role. Alondra Nelson, the OSTP deputy director for science and society, has assumed the role of director on a temporary basis. Francis Collins, the recently-retired head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), was also appointed to serve as science advisor to the president and co-chair the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Other famed researchers have also recently fallen due to harassment allegations. Last year, Moncef Slaoui, a former GlaxoSmithKline vaccines leader and chief scientist for the Operation Warp Speed response to the COVID-19 pandemic, lost his position as chairman of the board of directors of Galvani Bioelectronics following the confirmation of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct allegations.

Also last year, SENS Research Foundation terminated Chief Scientific Officer Aubrey de Grey following internal confirmation of charges of inappropriate behavior raised by two former female employees. 

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