MIT assistant professor alleges Sabatini 'coerced' her into sex, led 'highly sexualized lab'

The woman who claimed sexual harassment allegations against David Sabatini has filed a counterclaim after the repeat biotech founder painted himself as the victim. 

The plaintiff claimed Sabatini's October filing was a "frivolous lawsuit" in which he doxxed her and "peddled falsehoods and fanciful conspiracy theories." The counterclaim, filed by an assistant professor in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Department of Biology, was received by a Massachusetts court Tuesday. 

The woman, a former grad student mentee of Sabatini and colleague at Whitehead Institute, claimed the former MIT professor "coerced" her into having sex with him. Her filing portrayed him as perpetuating a power imbalance between men and women in the sciences, "a paradigm too long pervasive" in the field.

At alcohol-laden social events at his lab, Sabatini heavily favored sex over science in conversations. Chatter was "85% sexual, 15% science," according to the counterclaim filing. Before supporting her advancement, Sabatini would ask the woman whether she was "fun" and whether she "f*cked around," the filing said. 

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Sabatini led a "highly sexualized and offensive lab environment" in which he manipulated and groomed young women, according to the new filing. He threatened to retaliate against people who spoke up about the workplace culture, the filing claimed.

He was also a former member of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, or HHMI. As a result of investigations this summer, the institute terminated Sabatini, he resigned from Whitehead, and MIT placed him on administrative leave, according to the filing. His status at MIT has not yet been decided, and he remains on leave from the institution, the filing claims. Sabatini still has a profile page on the institute's website, which also says he is "on leave."

The filing claims Sabatini's actions violated multiple MIT, HHMI and Whitehead policies. 

An MIT spokesperson confirmed Sabatini remains on leave as the institute's "process in response to the Whitehead Institute’s report is ongoing."

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"[H]e shamed individuals who had the temerity not to play along" in a lab environment in which Sabatini talked about sex and inquired about the sex lives of his employees, the filing claimed. 

Sabatini asked a female master's student if she was engaging in sexual acts with another lab member and proceeded to ask her to rank her male counterparts with whom she would have sex, the filing claims. He preferred Europeans and liked to brag about sex, the filing went on. 

The professor's brother, a Harvard scientist, attended alcohol tastings at the lab. Sabatini asked a female postdoc fellow if she was attracted to his brother and teased her about him, the filing claimed. He referred to a visiting postdoc as a "Catholic virgin."

The actions trickled down. Male members of the lab, with Sabatini present, referred to an undergraduate lab member as the "hot model/girl," the filing claimed. 

The lab environment extended beyond sexual harassment into other areas, the filing claimed. Sabatini would say "the white man has it so bad," and at other times, he said people have to be gay in order to get into medical school or obtain faculty positions "these days," the filing said. 

Editor's note: This story was updated at 2:43 p.m. ET to include information from an MIT spokesperson.