Jean Bennett is a gene therapy expert recognized for her translational work on inherited retinal degenerations. She is known particularly for being the scientific leader of a team that translated reversal of blindness in animal models to demonstration of efficacy and safety in children and adults. This led to the first FDA-approved gene therapy product for a genetic disease. Bennett received her PhD in Zoology/Cell and Developmental Biology from University of California, Berkeley and her MD from Harvard Medical School. She completed fellowships at University of California, San Francisco, Yale University and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Bennett joined the faculty at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1992 where she was a professor of Ophthalmology and Cell and Developmental Biology until July 2021, when she became the F.M. Kirby Emeritus Professor of Ophthalmology. She continues to Co-direct the Center for Advanced Retinal and Ocular Therapeutics (CAROT) at UPenn while simultaneously further developing gene therapy applications in conjunction with private foundations and biotechnology companies. She has been active in the American Society for Cell and Gene Therapy, non-profit patient-oriented foundations, and is a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine.

Research Interests

Jean Bennett's laboratory is interested in the pathogenesis of inherited retinal degenerations and the potential applications of gene transfer for ameliorating or even curing blinding disease. The laboratory has thus evaluated safety and durability of gene transfer to various retinal cell types, stages of development, and in different model systems, immune responses, different inherited and acquired forms of retinal disease, and approaches to treating blinding disease using a variety of gene-based approaches. Her team completed both a re-administration study, first in animals and then with Spark Therapeutics (of which she is a scientific founder), and a registrational gene therapy trial for congenital blindness, the first randomized, controlled, multi-center gene therapy Phase 3 gene therapy trial targeting a genetic disease. This work led to the first approved in vivo gene therapy for inherited disease in USA (2017), in Europe (2018), and now in multiple continents. Dr. Bennett established a "from bench to bedside" program using her experience in moving successful laboratory findings through rigorous safety and efficacy testing and, if warranted, into clinical trials. Dr. Bennett continues to develop gene-based therapies for retinal degenerative diseases and to tackle some of the limitations of current gene therapy technologies.

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Primary Section

Section 42: Medical Physiology and Metabolism

Secondary Section

Section 24: Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience