Upper School students in Parker’s Advanced Biology class recently had an opportunity to learn from an expert responsible for transforming rare diseases through gene therapy when Parker parent and Avexis President David Lennon visited their class to talk about his work with gene therapy and spinal muscular atrophy.
Dr. Lennon shared information about the genetic disorder known as spinal muscular atrophy, which is characterized by weakness and wasting (atrophy) in muscles used for movement (skeletal muscles). Students learned the condition is caused by a loss of specialized nerve cells, called motor neurons, that control muscle movement, as well as about the revolutionary gene therapy treatment called Zolgensma, which treats patients with this condition.
Reflecting upon the experience, one student shared, “I think it was super-cool that we got to take what we had already learned about genetics and gene editing and apply it to a real-world problem like a genetic disease. It taught me a lot more about the obstacles and opposition to gene therapy and just how difficult it is to get gene therapies approved.” Another student shared, “Being able to learn from someone who has a solution to SMA with the use of gene therapy was a great way to put the science outside of the classroom and hear about real-life examples. Having Dr. Lennon come to Parker and explain the science and logistics behind gene therapy was a life-changing experience.”
Parker thanks Dr. Lennon for speaking with our students and providing them with an actual application of the topics they learn in class. These kinds of experiential lessons are extremely impactful as our older students began to decide how they want to pursue their own passions in life.