Targeted Genetics Corp. is caught in the middle of a brewing storm: Jolee Mohr, a vibrant 36-year-old mother, recently died while participating in a gene therapy clinical trial for arthritis run by the Seattle-based biotech firm.
Since the '80s, gene therapy -- an experimental procedure that attempts to treat a disease by replacing damaged genes with new ones -- has been widely touted as modern medicine's next marvel. Sad to say, it has been implicated in an assortment of "serious adverse events" and deaths; no gene therapy treatment has ever been deemed safe or effective enough to receive FDA approval.
Although the FDA has not confirmed Mohr's cause of death, all available evidence points to the engineered virus given to her during the clinical trial. Until now, the most well known gene therapy death was Jesse Gelsinger's, an 18-year-old with a rare metabolic disorder.
Gelsinger died when his immune system responded poorly to the treatment -- symptoms similar to Mohr's. Also like Mohr, Gelsinger died when the risky gene therapy procedure was used to treat a non-life-threatening condition that could...