Examining the legacy of W. French Anderson—’father of gene therapy’ and convicted child molester

French Anderson AP x
Anderson appeared at a hearing at the Los Angeles Superior Court in February 2005. Image creditL AP Photo/Walt Mancini

[Dr. W. French] Anderson has been hailed as the father of gene therapy and was honored at George H.W. Bush’s White House. In 1991, the New York Times ran a laudatory story headlined “Dr. Anderson’s Gene Machine.”

But in July 2006, Anderson was convicted of three counts of lewd acts on a child and one count of continuous sexual abuse, including fondling her genitals. The sexual assaults started in 1997 when the girl was 10 and Anderson was 60.

This May, Anderson, now 81, was released on parole. Two weeks later, STAT spoke to him. We were interested in his views — as someone who’d once been near the pinnacle of medical science — of the research advances during his years behind bars.

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Anderson was wistful about how science had marched on without him and described scenes one doesn’t associate with prison life: an inmate trying to keep up with genetics, eagerly opening envelopes from his wife stuffed with issues of Science, Human Gene Therapy, and Genetic Engineering News.

Even when Anderson summed up his life by saying, “I used to be famous and now I’m infamous,” it seemed matter-of-fact more than rueful. He feels like Muhammad Ali, he said, an icon at the top of his game whose life and career were derailed by what he calls a flawed, unjust system.

Read full, original post: Out of prison, the ‘father of gene therapy’ faces a harsh reality: a tarnished legacy and an ankle monitor

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