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Trial and error.

  • Anderson, French.
  • Videos

About this work


When Jesse Gelsinger was two years old he suddenly and inexplicably fell into a stage 2 coma. He was suffering from a life-threatening liver condition, ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency (OTCD). Dr French Anderson, working with gene therapy, believed he could replace the defective gene with a working gene which would help to cure this kind of disease. Many conditions were being treated with gene therapy during the mid-1990s but it seemed that most cases were not responding to the therapy, mainly due to the failure of the retrovirus. A new vector needed to be found. Jim Wilson thought he could crack the problem and, in 1992, he set up an institute to work on finding the new vector; in 1998 he began to work on OTCT. He decided to try his potential cure on eighteen patients, including Jesse. Jesse reacted badly to the gene therapy and fell into a coma, then died. Robert Erickson had already expressed concerns that an earlier form of the vector had been deadly and had tried to halt the trial. The Gelsinger family began legal procedings against the Wilson drug trial. Why would such top scientists put children like Jesse at risk?


UK : BBC2, 2011.

Physical description

1 videocassette (VHS) : sound, color, PAL.


Broadcast on 27 February, 2003

Creator/production credits

Written and produced by Andrew Cohen.

Copyright note




  • English

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