Gene therapy pioneer W.F. Anderson accused of molesting girl he coached in karate

Friday, July 30th 2004, 9:28 pm
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Gene therapy pioneer Dr. William French Anderson was arrested Friday on charges he sexually molested a girl he had coached in karate, authorities said.

Anderson, 67, an internationally prominent University of Southern California scientist, was arrested at his San Marino home one day after prosecutors filed a criminal complaint, said Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

Anderson abused the girl, now 17, at his home from 1997 to 2001, authorities said.

Bail was set at $6 million, and an arraignment was scheduled for Tuesday.

Anderson, director of the university's Gene Therapy Laboratories at the Keck School of Medicine, was placed on administrative leave Friday, USC said in a statement.

The six felony counts against Anderson include one count of continuous sexual abuse against a person under 14 and five counts of lewd acts with a child, Gibbons said. Authorities said the girl was about 10 when the abuse started.

If convicted on all counts, Anderson could receive up to 56 years in prison, Gibbons said.

Detectives served search warrants Friday at Anderson's home in suburban San Marino and at his office, where authorities confiscated computers, according to USC.

Anderson led a team that performed the first approved human gene therapy trial in 1990. A 4-year-old girl who suffered from a disease that left her vulnerable to infection was given white blood cells altered to include a copy of the gene that makes adenosine deaminase or ADA, the enzyme she lacked. The girl continues to do well, but it is unclear whether that is due to the therapy because she also received injections of synthetic ADA.

Overall, gene therapy has had mixed results, with few clear-cut cases of success.