On Sept. 17, 1999, Jesse Gelsinger died after receiving an experimental gene therapy from James Wilson’s lab at the University of Pennsylvania. That tragedy waylaid Wilson’s career and almost shut down the whole field. Wilson and his team put their heads down and spent the next decade searching for safer gene therapies. Today, his lab’s $70 million annual budget and bevy of biotech partnerships are fueling the gene therapy explosion.
The resurgence was never a sure thing.
Here’s how it happened.