William French Anderson
William French Anderson, M.D. (born December 31, 1936) is a U.S. physician, geneticist and molecular biologist. He is considered a pioneer of gene therapy. He graduated from Harvard College in 1958 and from Harvard Medical School in 1963. In 1990, he claimed to be the first person ever to succeed in gene therapy of a 4-year-old girl suffering from SCID (a form of an immuno-deficiency disorder called "bubble boy disease"). His claims may have been exaggerated, albeit, he was not alone. In 2006, he was convicted of sexual abuse of a minor, the daughter of an employee, and in 2007 was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Anderson was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His father was a civil engineer and his mother was a journalist, writer and university professor. According to his biography, he stuttered. He eventually overcame his impediment and was recognized for his performance in track, theater, and debate. Anderson was a 1954 graduate of Tulsa Central High School.
He entered Harvard University, where he excelled, becoming a track star and publishing several papers, including one outlining a method for arithmetic operations using Roman numerals. His school teacher had written a letter to the Harvard classics department and Prof. Sterling Dow arranged that the Oklahoma school boy be admitted to Harvard College and a freshman's paper published in Classical Philology (51, 1956). Following a year abroad in Cambridge, where he met his future wife Kathy Duncan, he returned to Harvard, to the Medical School, accompanied by Kathy. They married in 1961 and both graduated a few years later.
Dr. Anderson was employed by the National Institutes of Health, beginning a search to find ways to repair defective genes. Using microinjection methods, the approach was slow and inefficient. After abandoning this approach, his contributions to this field were non-existent until, in 1984, Richard Mulligan of MIT published a method to insert genes by using a retrovirus. Dr. Anderson wanted to test this theory with a human disease. In 1988 his proposal to the Human Gene Therapy Subcommittee was denied, however his request for a hearing before the full committee proceeded, and the trial was approved.
In May 1989 he conducted the first human safety test for gene therapy, a harmless marker injected into a 53 year old man. A year later a therapeutic trial was begun, to replace a defective ADA gene in a 4-year old girl, called Ashanthi DeSilva (also called Ashi). In 2007, at the age of 21, she was stable, but still had to take regular medication. The scientific consensus on this gene therapy trial was mixed, but there is no question that his work had great impact on the emerging field.
He joined the University of Southern California faculty in 1992 and was the director of the Gene Therapy Laboratories at the Keck School of Medicine and was a professor of biochemistry and pediatrics.
He was the founding editor of the peer-reviewed journal Human Gene Therapy.
Sexual abuse conviction
Anderson was arrested on July 30, 2004, on allegations of sexual abuse of a minor. He was convicted and jailed on July 19, 2006 of three counts of lewd acts upon a child under the age of 14 for the years 1997 through 2001 and one count of continuous sexual abuse. On February 2, 2007, he was sentenced to 14 years in prison and ordered to pay $68,000 in restitution, fines, and fees; he had faced a maximum of 18 years for molesting the now 19-year-old girl, the daughter of his colleague, in his home when she was 10 to 15 years old. The jury was shown reconstructed e-mails and played an edited tape-recorded single conversation where the girl angrily confronted Anderson, who said, "I just did it, just something in me was just evil."
Following conviction, Anderson was stripped of tenure, fired from his faculty position and barred from the campus of his university.
In February, 2005 Anderson was also charged in Montgomery County, Maryland with molesting a Silver Spring, Maryland boy for three years in the 1980s. Prosecutors dropped those charges, citing insufficient evidence under Maryland law and credibility of the witness.
- Anderson was runner-up for Time magazine's 1995 Man of the Year.
- King Faisal International Prize for Medicine 1994
- Anderson holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do
- Technology Review, November/December 2006 issue, p. 43.
- Human Gene Therapy - Harsh Lessons, High Hopes U.S. Food and Drug Administration - FDA Consumer magazine, September–October 2000
- Jennifer Kahn, The Unraveling, Wired October 2007, p. 198
- W. Calder III, Men in their Books. Studies in the modern history of classical scholarship, Hildesheim, Zürich, New York 1998, p. 287
- GENE THERAPY FOR HUMAN PATIENTS - INFORMATION FOR THE GENERAL PUBLIC of NIH NIH.GOV
- Burke, Bob and Barry Epperson, W. French Anderson: Father of Gene Therapy, Oklahoma Heritage Association (2003) ISBN 1-885596-25-1
- Jeff Lyon and Peter Gorner, Altered Fates: Gene Therapy and the Retooling of Human Life, W. W. Norton & Company (1995) ISBN 0-393-03596-4
- Genetic treatment of "bubble babies"
- All male jury in LA finds prominent geneticist guilty of molestation
- Jury convicts genetic pioneer of molestation
- Wired Magazine: Molest Conviction Unravels Gene Pioneer's Life
- Jones Day Lawyers Successfully Prep and Defend a Child Molestation Victim