UMMS gene therapy featured in Boston Sunday Globe

Resurgence in treatment strategies bringing renewed interest, investments

By Jim Fessenden

UMass Medical School Communications

July 15, 2013
Dean of the School of Medicine Terence R. Flotte (seen here with Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences gene therapy student Alisha Gruntman) spoke with the
Boston Sunday Globe about UMMS's lead role in the resurgence of gene therapy research and treatment strategies.

Almost two decades after gene therapy was hailed as a potential cure for a myriad of diseases from sickle cell anemia to cystic fibrosis, scientists at UMass Medical School are leading a resurgence in treatment strategies that have had some notable successes and are attracting investors and the public, according to a front page story in the Boston Sunday Globe.

One of the first advocates for gene therapy and a leader in the field today, Terence R. Flotte, MD, the Celia and Isaac Haidak Professor in Medicine, executive deputy chancellor, provost, dean of the School of Medicine and professor of pediatrics and microbiology & physiological systems, sat down with the Globe’s Carolyn Johnson for the July 14 feature on the renewed interest in gene therapy, which aims to insert useful genes into patients using viruses.

Its promise hindered by the death of a patient during an early clinical trial, gene therapy was largely forgotten by the public and most of the scientific community. Dr. Flotte said he’s begun to notice drug companies and investors showing up at gene therapy meetings. Eyeing a hot field, they are interested in investing in new gene therapy treatments, he said.

“I’ve been doing this for many years starting in the early 1980s, and we’re now at a point where we’re talking about when we would treat the patient,” Neil Aronin, MD, professor of medicine, cell biology and physiology, told the Globe. Dr. Aronin is investigating Huntington’s disease. “We didn’t even have that discussion before.”

Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, the Leo P. and Theresa M. LaChance Chair in Medical Research and chair and professor of neurology, and Craig C. Mello, PhD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, the Blais University Chair in Molecular Medicine and distinguished professor of molecular medicine and cell & developmental biology, are also quoted in the Globe story.

Read the full story here: