Jean Bennett, MD, Ph.D.
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

Jean Bennett, MD, Ph.D.

Dr. Jean Bennett was recruited to the Scheie Eye Institute at University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine in 1992 where she has spent the past three decades developing gene-based strategies for treating inherited retinal degenerations. There she has run a true bench-to-bedside translational research program and, in the process, has trained hundreds of physician-scientists, many of whom are now leaders in translational research around the globe.

She was the scientific leader of a team that translated reversal of blindness in animal models to demonstration of efficacy and safety of gene therapy in children and adults. She was the scientific director of clinical studies at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia that led to first FDA-approved gene therapy for a genetic disease (blindness due to RPE65 deficiency). These studies were sponsored by Spark Therapeutics, a company that she co-founded but in which she waived financial benefit. She helped develop the primary outcome measure for the trial that led in 2017 to the first US FDA-approved gene therapy product. It also led to approval of the reagent, “Luxturna”, by the European Medicines Agency.

Jean continues to develop gene-based therapies for retinal degenerative diseases and to tackle some of the limitations of current gene therapy technologies. She recently co-founded Opus Genetics to help those patients and families that suffer from conditions that are so rare that they have been neglected by big pharma.

Jean graduated from Yale College with a BS in Honors Biology. She received her PhD (Zoology, Cell and Developmental Biology) from the University of California, Berkeley and her MD from Harvard Medical School. She then received post-graduate training at Yale University and Johns Hopkins in Human Genetics and Developmental Genetics. An internationally recognized expert in gene therapy, Dr. Bennett has authored more than 120 peer-reviewed papers.

She received The Retina Research Foundation Pyron Award, the Retina International Special Recognition Award, The John Scott Award, the Albert C. Muse Prize, the Lluria Liggett Gund Award, the Charles L. Schepens Award, the Smithsonian Ingenuity Award and was a co-recipient of the Champalimaud Vision Award, the Sanford Lorraine Cross Award, the Greenberg Prize to End Blindness and the Future Vision Award.

She is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Science, the Association of American Physicians and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.