“Father of Gene Therapy” to be Released from Prison

Photographed is W. French Anderson (middle) with his co-workers at a press conference held September 13, 1990, before the first gene therapy patient received treatment. (Credit: National Cancer Institute)

William French Anderson, one of the earliest pioneers of gene therapy, is set to be released from prison in the next month after nearly 12 years behind bars. Dr. Anderson was convicted of sex offences against a child in July 2006, and was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2007.

Prior to 2004, when he was first accused, Dr. Anderson was a prominent researcher within the field of genomics, in part because of his moniker, ‘the Father of Gene Therapy’. This was a title that he earned in the late 1980s, after he and his team performed the first FDA-approved clinical trial intended to change a patient’s genetic code.

The patient in question was 4-year-old ADA-SCID patient, Ashanti DeSilva, whose immune system was severely compromised by a genetic defect that causes a deficiency in adenosine deaminase. The case has recently been revisited in Part 2 of Fixing the Code.

After the moderate success of this case, Dr Anderson continued to research disease pathology, in particular, searching for a cure for cancer. However, his work was cut off in 2004, when charges were brought against him. 

Ever since the charges were laid against him, Dr Anderson has denied any wrongdoing.

Now, just under 12 years later, he is set to be released from prison at the age of 81.

In the most recent article on the matter, the BH Courier reports that, once Dr. Anderson has been released, he intends to file a civil lawsuit against the L.A. Sheriff’s Department on the basis that they falsified evidence against him.

He has also stated that his intention is that he wants to resume a career in science.