Human Exceptionalism

Biotech Casualty

A gene therapy subject in an early human trial to treat arthritis has died, causing the experiment to be halted. Very sad. But such are the risks in human trials, which sometimes puts people in potential peril in the effort to get cutting edge medical treatments to clinical use. (There are, of course, cases in which known risks are not disclosed, as in the 1999 gene therapy death of Jesse Gelsinger, which is not part of the usual process.)

There has been so much hope placed in this biotechnological approach, but this isn’t the first such death, and it may indicate that it will be a very long time before this potentially promising treatment modality is available–if ever.

This event should remind us that biotechnology seeks to harness the power of sheer biology. That can be risky, which is why people should be wary. We must take this one step at a time.

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