Eighteen-year-old Jesse Gelsinger, a participant in the experimental gene therapy trial for ornithine transcarbamylase (OTC) deficiency, died on Friday, September 17th--four days after being injected with corrective genetic material. Jesse was the 18th patient to participate in the Phase-I clinical trial, which began in April of 1997 as a means to develop an effective treatment for OTC deficiency--an inherited disorder that, in its most common form, causes death in affected newborn males because of their inability to properly process nitrogen in food proteins due to a genetic defect in the liver. None of the 17 other trial participants who preceded Jesse in the OTC trial developed any serious unexpected or untoward clinical responses to the gene-therapy protocol. The OTC clinical trial--conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's Institute for Human Gene Therapy--has been voluntarily halted until the cause or causes of Jesse Gelsinger's death can be determined. In addition, appropriate regulatory agencies, including the FDA, have been notified.
"We are deeply saddened and surprised by the death of Jesse Gelsinger, an energetic and bright young man who unselfishly participated in this important study so that, in the longterm, an effective therapy might be developed to prevent or treat OTC deficiency," said Dr. James M. Wilson, director of Penn's Institute for Human Gene Therapy. "We offer our heartfelt condolences and sympathy to Jesse's family and friends; and we join with them in recognizing and honoring the bravery and altruism of this young man in choosing to help advance our knowledge of genetic disease by participating in this trial."
--University of Pennsylvania Health System
Marnzia Ann Scipio, office manager in Housing and Conference Services, died on September 15, at the age of 42, after a bout with cancer. She had been at Penn for ten years, serving the first eight as Residential Maintenance's office manager/business administrator until the unit was outsourced to Trammell Crow in 1998.
A member of the Zion Hill Baptist Church at 53rd & Spruce Sts., Ms. Scipio was the Church's assistant financial secretary and president of its Senior Choir. "Ranzi touched the lives of many people throughout the Penn community, and her passing is a sad loss to us all," said co-worker Lynn Rotoli. Another, Jeff Rusling, called her "delightful to work with--always very positive, helpful, and with a smile for everyone; the kind of person who was committed to the success of the departmental mission while taking time to care about the people with whom she worked."
Ms. Scipio is survived by her daughter Na-tasha, parents Lewis and Eddie Mae Scipio, a brother, Bernard, three sisters, Jennie Dickens, Diane Scipio, and Sharon Scipio; and a host of relations and friends.
Almanac, Vol. 46, No. 6, October 5, 1999