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Pioneer in Ocular Gene Therapy to Receive 2018 Marion Spencer Fay Award

September 14, 2018

Jean Bennett, MD, PhD
Jean Bennett, MD, PhD, the F.M. Kirby professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania, is the 2018 Marion Spencer Fay Award honoree.

Drexel University College of Medicine's Institute for Women's Health and Leadership has selected physician and scientist Jean Bennett, MD, PhD, as its 2018 Marion Spencer Fay Award honoree.

Bennett is the F.M. Kirby professor of ophthalmology, professor of cell and development biology, and co-director of the Center for Advanced Retinal and Ocular Therapeutics (CAROT) at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. She is a pioneer in the field of ocular gene therapy.

The national Marion Spencer Fay Award, now in its 55th year, annually honors a woman physician and/or scientist who has made an exceptionally significant contribution to health care as a practitioner, medical educator, administrator and/or research scientist. It recognizes the honoree's past contributions and supports her ongoing work.

Bennett's translational research has broad implications for the entire medical field of therapeutic gene transfer, impacting the understanding and future treatment of many human diseases. She developed gene transfer approaches to test treatment strategies for retinal degenerative and ocular neovascular diseases and identified pathogenetic mechanisms that lead to blindness. Her work resulted in the first approved gene therapy drug for retinal disease worldwide and the first approved gene therapy for genetic disease in the United States.

Bennett completed her bachelor's degree at Yale University, her PhD from the University of California-Berkeley, and her medical degree from Harvard Medical School. She has received numerous awards and is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and the Association of American Physicians, and she served on the Board of Directors, American Society for Cell and Gene Therapy.

"We are proud to recognize the trailblazing contributions of Dr. Bennett, who joins the long line of exceptional women who honor the legacy of Dr. Fay," said Lynn H. Yeakel, Director of the Institute for Women's Health and Leadership. "I am thrilled and also humbled to be the recipient of the 2018 Marion Spencer Fay Award," said Bennett. "What an incredible honor it is to be able to share my excitement about translational research in the name of Dr. Fay, and to be included in the ranks of the many other outstanding recipients."

The Marion Spencer Fay Award, which includes a $10,000 honorarium, will be presented on Wednesday, November 7, 2018 in the New College Building's Geary Lecture Hall, 245 N. 15th Street, in Philadelphia. Bennett will deliver the annual Marion Spencer Fay Award Lecture at 4:30 p.m. and a reception will follow. Her lecture is titled, "Seeing the Light with Retinal Gene Therapy: From Fantasy to Reality."

Marion Spencer Fay, PhD, was dean and president of Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania (a predecessor institution of Drexel University College of Medicine) from 1946 to 1963. The National Board for Women in Medicine established this award in her name in 1963 to recognize her pioneering leadership. Drexel University College of Medicine maintains the traditions of the Woman's Medical College and the Medical College of Pennsylvania that reflect a 160-year legacy of excellence.

Past Marion Spencer Fay Award honorees include Melissa Simon, MD, MPH, professor, Northwestern Univ. Feinberg School of Medicine and founder and director of the Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative; Vivian Pinn, MD, senior scientist emerita, National Institutes of Health, and founding director (retired), Office of Research on Women's Health, NIH (Lifetime Achievement award); Laurie Glimcher, MD, president and chief executive officer, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Katherine L. Knight, PhD, Chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and co-founder of the Infectious Disease and Immunology Institute at Loyola University, Chicago; Phyllis A. Dennery, MD, Chief of Neonatology and Newborn Services at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; Nancy C. Andrews, MD, PhD, Dean, Duke University School of Medicine; and Julie Overbaugh, PhD, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.