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New course introduces first-year students to growing field of cell & gene therapy

March 7, 2023

Kara Spiller, PhD, professor in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems, has designed a new interdisciplinary course to introduce first-year students to cell and gene therapy, the science behind it and other aspects of this emerging area of the life sciences industry that is playing an increasing role at Drexel.

Spiller, who leads the Biomaterial and Regenerative Medicine Laboratory, created Explorations of Cell & Gene Therapy (BMES T280, CRN35116) to delve into various facets of the field, including the manufacturing and business challenges surrounding it. The course will tap local experts from the cell and gene therapy industry and will include field trips to life sciences companies in Philadelphia, which is nationally recognized as a growing life sciences hub.

“It’s a particularly exciting time for cell and gene therapy in Philadelphia,” Spiller said. “It’s an emerging field and these companies are going to be hiring workers of all levels of education. While we have taught higher-level concepts to graduate and other students, we haven’t taught them to first-year students, and I think we should. It’s a collaborative course with industry and intended to raise students’ awareness of this area and get students excited about it.”

Health Innovation has been identified among the Areas of Excellence and Opportunity (AEOs) at the University, and cell and gene therapy will be a focus of pilot activity in the area. An array of activities will be set in motion through the pilot process, including the development of new experiential courses, research partnerships and community-based projects.

“The importance of the AEO initiative in moving the University forward, remaining competitive and enhancing our reputation can’t be understated,” said Paul E. Jensen, PhD, Executive Vice President and Nina Henderson Provost. “By focusing and strengthening these areas, we can strategically align our resources and harness their potential across academics, research and partnership to produce greater societal impact and better serve our students and partners.”

That Health Innovation along with cell and gene therapy have emerged as a focus for Drexel isn’t surprising. The University has been instrumental in helping to establish University City as an Innovation Neighborhood by partnering in the development of uCity Square and Schuylkill Yards, which cater to startups from a range of industries but many of which are concentrated in life sciences.

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