“I came to entrepreneurship not for the
sake of starting a company, but because
I saw it as a means to be a positive,
disruptive force for change in the
Spark is a gene therapy company. Our aim is to deliver a normal, functional copy of a disease-causing gene, potentially curing debilitating and lethal illnesses with a single dose. To start, we are focusing on rare diseases caused by mutations in a single gene. Shifting the paradigm from “treatment” to “cure” is an incredible opportunity that keeps us inspired and motivated every day. Launching our IPO was a major milestone and very exciting for our team, but after about 20 minutes, everybody went back to work. That tells you a lot about how we operate and that our focus lies where it should—with the patients we hope to serve.
Information technology is wonderful but there is no substitute for connecting directly with innovators and partners on a daily basis. We were spun out of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), and our location at the Science Center is important because we are conducting clinical trials at CHOP and the University of Pennsylvania. Our research partners can walk over and see us rather than having to drive out to the suburbs. That accessibility makes relationships stronger. As we continue to grow, it’s my hope that we can give back by mentoring other local life sciences companies.
Philadelphia is my home. I grew up in East Falls, went to school at Germantown Friends and college and business school at the University of Pennsylvania, and now live downtown with my wife and our one-year-old son. We can’t see ourselves anywhere except in a thriving city—especially my wife, who grew up in Manhattan. There is a regular group of people at Spark who patronize the small businesses nearby, and we have happy hours at Han Dynasty as often as our schedules allow. Our company was born and raised in West Philadelphia and there is a strong sense of connection to the city. I think people are excited to come to the city to work, given the energy of the city, which is matched only by the energy and excitement of working at Spark.
my NEXT STEPS
We currently are conducting a fully enrolled, Phase 3 pivotal clinical trial of SPK-RPE65, a therapy for a rare form of inherited blindness, and anticipate reporting final results from that study during the second half of 2015. Our space at 3737 Market reflects the culture we are building at Spark—an open and collaborative style. Every office is the same size and has a glass front with access to natural light. People are interspersed, rather than seated by department or function. We have 28,000 square feet with integrated office space, laboratories, and manufacturing facilities, all on one floor. Our space is important to how we work—collaboratively, efficiently, and in unison. We believe that gene therapies will transform lives with a single treatment, and we are excited to be part of this new era of medicine.