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The Gene Hunters


Dr. Isner Dies at 53

Dr. Jeffrey Isner, noted cardiologist and gene therapy researcher, died suddenly of a heart attack on October 31, 2001. Isner was 53.

A professor at Tufts University School of Medicine and Chief of both Vascular Medicine and Cardiovascular Research at St. Elizabeth's Medical Center in Boston, Isner pioneered the use of gene therapy to treat cardiovascular ailments.

Isner's unique approach was to introduce a gene into ailing blood vessel walls that would stimulate the growth of new vessels around a blockage.

In 1994, Isner's team performed the first human cardiovascular arterial gene transfer. Subsequently, Isner's group initiated human gene therapy trials for other forms of vascular disease. Results had been very encouraging. The minimally invasive procedure, with no apparent side effects nor need for immuno-suppressing drugs, looked extremely promising.

But in 1999, the death of a patient enrolled in a University of Pennsylvania gene therapy trial prompted an FDA investigation into gene therapy trials nationwide. Isner's work was shut down amidst allegations of ethical violations. By the end of 2001, however, the FDA had given Isner approval to resume his research.

In 1996, Isner was the recipient of the American Medical Association's William Beaumont Award, presented annually to a gifted scientist under the age of fifty. He was also awarded the Outstanding Faculty Achievement Award from Tufts University in 1996 and the MERIT Award from the NIH in 2000.

Isner leaves his wife Linda, two sons and a daughter.


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