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Top Cancer Researcher Under Investigation by Salk Institute in San Diego

Inder Verma, one of the world's leading authorities on gene therapy and cancer, is under investigation, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies confirmed Monday.

Verma, a professor in the Laboratory of Genetics, is one of the leading experts on research to fight brain tumors and lung diseases.

On Saturday, Salk placed Verma on administrative leave while they investigate "claims the Institute was not previously aware of," according to an email the board sent to employees.

Chair of the Board of Trustees Dan Lewis said the institute had recently become aware of allegations concerning Verma and, last week, a reporter for Science magazine presented new information in advance of a story. 

The magazine asked for an interview with Salk officials regarding sexual harassment allegations against Verma, Science reporter Meredith Wadman said in an article published Saturday

Lewis did not give details regarding the nature of the allegations in his email to employees. 

"We take these allegations very seriously and have expanded the scope of the investigation," Lewis said.

Verma will not be working in a scientific or administrative capacity during the investigation, Lewis said. 

In December, Elizabeth Blackburn announced she would retire from her position as president of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in the face of gender discrimination lawsuits filed against the research facility. 

Three female Salk professors filed lawsuits alleging gender discrimination when it comes to access to grants as well as salaries and promotions.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Verma was placed on leave as editor of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences because of the lawsuits and the allegations over how the center treats women.

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