Science students from City and Islington College (CANDI) heard how the latest advancements in gene therapy are helping people with serious diseases when they visited MeiraGTx.
The group from the college’s Centre for Applied Sciences, Angel, discovered more from scientists during a tour of the company’s clinical laboratories and manufacturing facilities in Hackney.
Gene therapy involves replacing or altering the body’s genes to treat or prevent disease and disorders, or improve the its ability to fight them. The science has been used to treat a wide range of health problems including cancer, cystic fibrosis, heart disease, diabetes, haemophilia and AIDS.
MeiraGTx’s work is currently focused on four clinical development programmes on conditions affecting the eye, salivary gland and central nervous system. This has included research and development into the treatment of rare retinal diseases, Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s.
The company, which also has offices in New York and Amsterdam, uses cutting edge techniques to provide meaningful clinical benefit in these areas.
It also works with partners around the world to gain a deeper understanding of diseases and their progression to develop and advance is programmes.
Science student Max Haslam, 17, said: “I’ve been interested in working in genetic engineering since I was 14. It fascinates me how you can take a cell from any organism, alter its DNA make-up, and it will redevelop.
“There are a lot of ethical boundaries with genetics, but I see the positive side and how it can help people in the long term. In the medical field it can help cure diseases and conditions or prevent them in the first place. That to me is amazing.
“From the start they were very eager to explain about the work they do and the importance of it. It was interesting hearing about the genetic therapy techniques that are specific to the patient and the condition they are treating.
“They answered all my questions and were very clear in helping me to understand the level I needed to study and the route I would need to take to work in a particular area of genetic science. It has really strengthened my passion to work in genetic engineering.”
CANDI offers A Level courses in Biology and Chemistry, Applied Science courses and Medical Science Diplomas at Levels 2-3, as well as an Access to Higher Education Diploma in Medical and Medical Biosciences.
MeiraGTx is to offer degree apprenticeships to CANDI students successfully completing an Applied Science or Medical Science Level 3 Diploma, or equivalent, or employ them as lab technicians.
Philippa Cooke, Head of Hub at Angel, said: “This was a great opportunity for our students to meet the research scientists at MeiraGTx and find out more about the world of genetic science.
“It was incredibly inspiring and insightful for the students to hear about their work and the wide range of opportunities relating to their studies, from clinical research and engineering to manufacturing and supply, and how to gain successful careers in this sector.”