FDA Approves First Gene Therapies to Treat Patients with Sickle Cell Disease

On December 8, 2023, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved two milestone treatments, Casgevy and Lyfgenia, representing the first cell-based gene therapies for the treatment of sickle cell disease (SCD) in patients 12 years and older. Additionally, one of these therapies, Casgevy, is the first FDA-approved treatment to utilize a type of novel genome editing technology, signaling an innovative advancement in the field of gene therapy. Sickle cell disease is a group of inherited blood disorders affecting approximately 100,000 people in the U.S. It is most common in African Americans and, while less prevalent, also affects Hispanic Americans. The primary problem in sickle cell disease is a mutation in hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells that delivers oxygen to the body’s tissues. This mutation causes red blood cells to develop a crescent or “sickle” shape. These sickled red blood cells restrict the flow in blood vessels and limit oxygen delivery to the body’s tissues, leading to severe pain and organ damage called vaso-occlusive events (VOEs) or vaso-occlusive crises (VOCs). The recurrence of these events or crises can lead to life-threatening disabilities and/or early death. 

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