Amid Epstein link allegations, PureTech Chair Ito steps down

Joi Ito has resigned as chairman of PureTech following allegations that he took steps to conceal the sources of donations to MIT Media Lab made or arranged by disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Christopher Viehbacher, a PureTech Health plc (LSE:PRTC) director, will be the company’s interim chair. Viehbacher, a former CEO of Sanofi (Euronext:SAN; NASDAQ:SNY), is managing partner of Gurnet Point Capital.

“Given circumstances related to the MIT Media Lab, we agreed that Joi’s resignation from PureTech was appropriate,” PureTech CEO Daphne Zohar said in a statement. Ito had been PureTech’s chairman since 2015, a year after he became a director at the company.

PureTech spokesperson Stephanie Simon told BioCentury, “We are not aware of any investment by Epstein in PureTech. We have had no interactions with Epstein.”

MIT Media Lab said Saturday that Ito has resigned as its director. He has also stepped down from the board of The New York Times Co. (NYSE:NYT), the paper reported Saturday.

In mid-August, MIT Media Lab published an apology from Ito for taking money from foundations Epstein controlled, and for “bringing such a person into our network.”

Ito said in the apology that he also allowed Epstein “to invest in several of my funds which invest in tech startup companies outside of MIT.”

Epstein, a convicted sex offender, died in a prison cell Aug. 10 by suicide, according to a statement issued days later by the office of New York City’s chief medical examiner.

A story published late Friday by The New Yorker alleged that Ito and other MIT Media Lab staff sought to keep Epstein’s name from being associated with donations he arranged or made, despite the lab’s knowledge of Epstein’s 2008 conviction and his disqualification as a donor by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

PureTech has begun building its own internal pipeline based on the brain-immune-gut axis, after a long period of investing in and spinning out affiliate companies (see “Turning Inward”).

The company's share price was unchanged at 279p in Monday's session.

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