A new scientific group is being established at IOCB headed by Dr. David Sabatini
The research group of David M. Sabatini will focus on molecular analysis of growth regulation in animals. This topic complements the chemical and biochemical programs of the Institute.
"The Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry has had a unique combination of diverse disciplines since its beginnings, and the contribution of a top biologist, such as David Sabatini, fits perfectly into this framework," notes the Director of the Institute, Prof. Jan Konvalinka.
David Sabatini is an expert in cell signaling, cancer metabolism, and growth regulation, and he trained dozens of graduate students and post-doctoral fellows who now run their own labs in academia. Previously, he was a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
IOCB Prague has a rich community of alumni from MIT, Harvard, and other Boston-area universities and they inspired his invitation because they knew Dr. Sabatini personally. One of them is Dr. Zuzana Kečkéšová, a Group Leader at IOCB Prague, who states: “I have known Dr. Sabatini personally for quite some time because I worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Whitehead Institute at MIT from 2008 to 2017 in Professor Robert Weinberg's laboratory. I am positive that he will become a great asset to our scientific team and welcome him to our midst.“
David Sabatini visited IOCB for the first time more than a year ago and presented a lecture to his Prague colleagues, which was very well received. His permanent engagement in Prague was subsequently approved by the internal IOCB Board and the International Advisory Board of the Institute, which consists of representatives from preeminent science institutions such as MIT, ETH Zurich, Oxford University, Weizmann Institute of Science, Max-Planck Institutes, and others.
”I am honored to join IOCB and contribute to its mission of basic discovery and improving human health through drug discovery. I will continue some of our traditional work on growth control and metabolism but also expand into different directions enabled by the expertise of my new colleagues,” states David Sabatini.
He has already established collaborations with his Prague colleagues. He hopes that his basic insights into clinically relevant signaling systems can be combined with the expertise of IOCB on medicinal chemistry to enable the discovery of novel drugs.
The Institute has been highly successful in this field since the second half of the last century. The most prominent examples are the anti-HIV compounds developed by Professor Antonín Holý, which, in collaboration with the American pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, led to drugs that to this day have saved the lives of millions of AIDS patients worldwide.
The hire of David Sabatini is likely to draw attention from the international scientific community and the media. In the summer of 2021, Sabatini was forced out of his positions at the Whitehead Institute and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. An MIT investigation concluded that Sabatini violated its internal rules regarding consensual relationships in the workplace by not officially reporting a relationship with a fellow group leader. The issue evolved into sexual harassment claims, which Dr. Sabatini vigorously denies, and he has filed lawsuits to clear his reputation.
The management of IOCB Prague is aware of the problems that David Sabatini encountered with his former employer. Prof. Jan Konvalinka comments: “We believe that he has been punished enough for his previous actions – IOCB would have proceeded differently – and that the research community will be served best if this brilliant scientist returns to conducting research. The Czech and global research community can only gain from giving David Sabatini a second chance.”
Similar to Prof. Konvalinka, junior principal investigator Dr. Zuzana Kečkéšová, who also serves as the ethical proxy of the institute, supports David Sabatini's hiring at the IOCB: “I am well aware of the controversy that has upended Dr. Sabatini's career, and I understand its complex nature, which still resonates throughout US academia. At the same time, I do not believe that striking Dr. Sabatini from the list of people who can ever hold a job again and handing out additional exemplary punishments helps solve the structural problems of women in science.“
- Read more: Investigative reporting by the Boston Globe's Spotlight team on Dr. Sabatini's case: https://apps.bostonglobe.com/metro/investigations/spotlight/...↗️
- Read more: Boston Globe on Dr. Sabatini's arrival at the IOCB: https://www.bostonglobe.com/2023/11/13/metro/...↗️
IOCB Prague is a recipient of the European Human Resources Award and has a strict Ethical Code of Conduct, a working system of ethical proxies, and an ethics review panel. Dr. Sabatini will be required to follow the same high standards of conduct and respectful behavior expected from every other principal investigator at IOCB.