John Barrett, 2019 ISCT Career Achievement Award Recipient

John Barrett, MD
2019 ISCT Career Achievement Award in Cell &

Gene Therapy

Growing up in London, England, a young John Barrett was fascinated by human evolution and dreamed about becoming a paleontologist travelling to Africa to dig up prehuman fossils. 

“But paleontology did not show up in any university curriculum and my mother said, ‘Why don’t you go into medicine instead? They always want doctors on expeditions,’” he recalls. “Reluctant at first, as I started seeing patients, I soon realized what a fantastic all-absorbing profession it is.”

He laughs softly.

“And I guess my dream did work out – my career has had its fair share of adventure – and I certainly travel a lot,” he adds.

Mr. Barrett is the recipient of the distinguished 2019 ISCT Career Achievement Award in Cell & Gene Therapy. This recognition is awarded to an individual who has made a significant impact during their career, advancing the field of cell and gene therapy through their longstanding service in one of the Society’s Three Pillars of Value: Academia, Regulatory/Quality Operations, and Commercialization.

The George Washington University Hospital professor is being recognized for his many years of dedication and passion to the Society, particularly as the respected Senior Editor of the Cytotherapy journal for 17 years (“It’s grown in size and importance.”) as well as the visionary co-founder of the ISCT-ASBMT Cell Therapy Training Course (“I’m so proud of what it has become.”) which has set the gold standard in mentorship and training opportunities for the next generation of cell and gene therapy professionals.

“This award is very special to me,” he says. “I have been with ISCT even before it was called ISCT. This organization is my favourite professional society and the one I feel closest to. So, it’s very gratifying and its a very good feeling that the Society has recognized me in this way. I really do appreciate that.”

Mr. Barrett says it has been an exciting experience watching cell and gene therapy evolve and grow since he entered the field in the late 60s when he went to medical school at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London.

“Most of the important events in cell and gene therapy have happened during my professional lifetime,” he says. “In 1970, I was involved with my first bone marrow transplant which was a highly experimental procedure at the time. It was the excitement of seeing the success of a transplant in a child with immune deficiency that really got me started, and I’ve been in the field ever since. A lot has happened since then.”

Both professionally and personally, Mr. Barrett says that working with ISCT has enriched his life and career.

“It’s benefitted my life in many ways,” he reflects. “There is a practical nature to the goals of the ISCT – you’re doing the science, but at the same time developing ways to apply treatments to the patient. The whole structure of cell and gene therapies is very complicated and we need ISCT to help us navigate that structure. Personally, ISCT has been a place where I have made so many friendships and where I have met many inspiring, professional colleagues in the field from around the world.”

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