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Two Asian American women allege bias by HHMI

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Science  20 Dec 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6472, pp. 1432-1433
DOI: 10.1126/science.366.6472.1432

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Summary

Two Asian American women who failed to win renewals of plum awards from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) are suing the private medical research funder, alleging that it discriminated on the basis of sex, race, or national origin when it ended their funding. In a lawsuit filed in August, Jeannie Lee, 55, an epigeneticist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, also accuses the powerhouse institute headquartered in Chevy Chase, Maryland, of discriminating against her because of her age—and alleges that women who win lucrative HHMI Investigator Awards are less likely than men to have those awards renewed once they turn 50. Vivian Cheung, 52, an RNA biologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, in March filed a Charge of Discrimination against HHMI with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It's a prerequisite for the lawsuit that she expects to file soon, alleging that when HHMI refused to renew her Investigator Award last year, it discriminated on the basis of sex, race, and disability. (Cheung has a rare genetic disease that causes progressive vision loss.) HHMI President Erin O'Shea said in a written statement that HHMI respects the two women and values the contributions. But, she added: "We have investigated these claims and believe they have no merit."

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