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Jeff Marrazzo: Commercializing the Unimaginable

Philadelphia’s claim to fame has always been its history as the birthplace of America. Often overlooked, however, is the more recent history that’s been made here such as the groundbreaking discoveries pumped out of our research and academic institutions at a rate that might astound our founding fathers.

Among those discoveries is technology from CHOP that, in 2013, was spun out into a startup called Spark Therapeutics. That startup went on to commercialize Luxturna, the first FDA-approved gene therapy for a genetic disease. The implications for children and adults with retinal disease are significant, but the broader consequence of the technology is revolutionary. Acquired by Roche in 2019, Spark now boasts over 850 employees and is the archetype for reimagining what’s possible in healthcare.

One of the people who grew Spark from startup to global enterprise is Co-founder, Former CEO, and 2022 Nucleus Commercialization honoree, Jeff Marrazzo.

The Nucleus Commercialize Award is sponsored by cbre

For a career as decorated as yours, what are you most proud of?

Firstly, the lasting impact that Spark has had – and will continue to have - on patients living with genetic disease. And a close second, how Spark has been a catalyst for Philadelphia’s emergence as a leader in cell and gene therapy.

You’ve talked about saying “yes” to opportunities to coach people who don’t look like you. How has this work changed or evolved your perception of leadership.

Well, I believe that genuinely relating to people from all walks of life is fundamental to great leadership. I have always enjoyed learning about other people’s lives and discovering all that we have in common. It enriches my life and makes me more empathetic, a quality critically needed in leaders today.

There was no playbook when you sought out to commercialize the first gene therapy for a genetic disease. What’s the next playbook you want to write?

I’ve never been more excited about the possibilities presented by today’s boldest scientific ideas. Maybe it’s time to develop a universal cure for cancer?

What is the headline about Philadelphia that you’d like to see 10 years from now?

Sparked by its life sciences industry: How Philadelphia became the model for America’s new economy

  • Grand Teton National Park, July 2022
  • Grand Teton National Park, July 2022

When you’re not harnessing the potential of the boldest scientific ideas, what can we find you doing in your free time?

On an adventure in the mountains or rediscovering my love of music by learning classical guitar.

What is your superpower?

Understanding and connecting the dots between complex, disparate information, and motivating stakeholders from patients to employees and investors to support a common mission.

As a kid, what did you want to be?

The quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles - my back-up plan was to become a doctor. And decades later my love of the Eagles and medicine reached near simultaneous pinnacles as Spark received approval of the first gene therapy for a genetic disease in the U.S. only months before the Eagles won their first Super Bowl!

Join us on September 28th as we honor Jeff Marrazzo with the Nucleus Commercialization Award.

2022 commercialize award sponsor