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Pioneering a New Therapy for Sickle Cell Disease

The science behind sickle cell disease (SCD) is cruel. For approximately 100,000 American children and adults (and 10-15 million people around the globe), a mutation in a single gene means a lifetime of unpredictable and excruciating pain—along with exhaustion, serious infections, and collateral damage to the brain, heart, lungs, and other organs. Anemia, strokes, pregnancy problems, kidney disease, and joint pain are common.

But the racial inequities that have hindered treatment advances for SCD—the most common inherited blood disorder in the United States—are far crueler. “I was at a conference recently where an older woman stood up and said she’d been in situations where she was effectively told, ‘Sickle cell disease is an
African-American problem. It’s up to you guys to solve it,’ ” says physician Ted W. Love ’81, M.D., CEO of Global Blood Therapeutics (GBT) in South San Francisco. “But there’s no reason the greater society as a whole shouldn’t be solving this. And thankfully we’re starting to see it get the attention it deserves these days across the biotech industry and with drug regulators.”