Our Orchard

Celebrating Orchard’s Five-Year Anniversary

By Andrea Spezzi, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Orchard Therapeutics
September 1, 2020

As we celebrate Orchard’s five-year anniversary this September, I flash back to when I sat together at a coffee shop with my good friend and colleague, Nicolas Koebel, to start shaping what was to become Orchard Therapeutics.

I fell in love with gene therapy back in 2010, when I started working on the clinical development of ex vivo gene therapies, including programs for metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD), Wiskott Aldrich syndrome (WAS), and Hurler syndrome (MPS I). The work was incredible, and I am lucky that many of these programs became part of Orchard’s pipeline over time.

Within five years, fueled by my strong belief in the science behind the clinical programs, the excitement of working with top experts, and the impact I felt these programs could have on patients, I took a leap of faith and jumped into the start-up adventure that led me to where I am today. The thrill of working in a new field, where we were paving the way on clinical development, manufacturing, quality and regulatory innovations — all while helping build a company from scratch — was exhilarating. Some people encouraged me; others thought I was taking a crazy risk. In the end, my heart was telling me this was the right thing to do.

Today, I stand in front of what was the upside scenario of the dream back then. Orchard is a thriving, lead-with-heart company. Guided by curiosity and creativity, we continue to walk a largely uncharted path that requires openness to exploring new and different ways of doing things. With more than 200 employees in the U.S. and Europe, we are still learning and growing as a company, and I believe the best is still ahead for us.

But doing important work is rarely easy. It requires commitment and resiliency to get through the rocky patches. It requires a certain vulnerability to allow yourself to make difficult decisions that deviate from the plan, to acknowledge mistakes along the way, and to move past those issues — to rebound and rebuild. I’ve learned a lot about myself as a leader during this journey, about the importance of being flexible and adapting to help nurture the organization through its different periods of growth and change, while never losing sight of our mission. That mission — to transform the lives of people living with rare diseases through gene therapy — is our guide. In the difficult periods, it is what has kept me going, and I know that’s true of my colleagues as well.

I chose the right path five years ago when I accepted the chief medical officer role at Orchard. My initial excitement and beliefs about the potential of gene therapy and the company have not faded, but instead have grown much stronger. These have been the best, most fulfilling years of my career so far, and I have never been prouder of what we have achieved as leaders and teammates together with our amazing scientific collaborators. I’m so very grateful to everyone who has been a part of this journey and look forward to what lies ahead for Orchard and for all those we serve.

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