Aubrey de Grey, the prominent longevity personality who founded the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) Research Foundation in order to find ways to stop or reverse aging, has been placed on leave due to multiple accusations of sexual harassment by other researchers in the field, STAT News reports.
Longevity fund founder Laura Deming posted on her blog that she would no longer work with de Grey or SENS in the future on Tuesday. She shared a story of having met de Grey when she was 14 and, three years later when she was still a minor, how de Grey emailed her saying that he had an "adventurous love life" and that he had wanted to talk to her about it for years.
And Celine Halioua, founder and CEO of the biotech company Loyal, also penned a blog post on the same day in which she recounts being an intern at SENS and being instructed to keep de Grey "entertained" at a 2016 dinner. During the dinner, she added, de Grey "funneled [her] alcohol" and said that she should have sex with SENS donors so they would give more money.
"I left that dinner sobbing," Halioua wrote. "It has taken me years to shake the deep-seated belief that I only got to where I am due to older men wanting to have sex with me."
Both accusers say that they represent a larger body of anonymous women who may have left the field or had their careers cut short due to de Grey's unwelcome advances and inappropriate behavior. Halioua added that she abandoned her PhD to escape another SENS executive who severely harassed her as well.
Acting SENSE executive director Lisa Fabiny told STAT that they learned of the accusations in June and placed de Grey on leave pending an investigation, but details on that process are scarce for now.
"We respect the integrity of this investigative process, and it would not be appropriate to speculate on the outcomes while the process remains ongoing," Fabiny told STAT. "We can promise that we will take seriously the findings and, if appropriate, take decisive action. We cannot and do not condone behavior that makes our colleagues and members of our scientific community feel victimized, targeted, or harmed."
De Grey declined STAT's request for comment, instead directing the publication to a Facebook post where he denied the allegations and then made the unsubstantiated claim that Deming and Halioua had somehow been deceived into accusing him of misconduct, and that some shadowy figure was using them to target him.
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