February 28 marked national Rare Disease Day and this year the University of Minnesota decided to team up with affected families of rare diseases. 

Convening at the Graduate Hotel in Minneapolis, the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Stem Cell Institute cohosted the event with the School of Pharmacy’s Center for Orphan Drug Research. 

According to the University of Minnesota, half of Minnesotans living with a rare disease are children. This event brought about an opportunity for children who have lost friends of their own to learn more about a future they can pursue in hopes of bringing about change and cures.

Ava Barnett, sixteen-years old, told 5 EYE WITNESS NEWS of how she lost her friend to a rare disease when she was 10 years old. "I'm here at this event to explore further into genetics, I'm really interested in genetics, because it was a genetic disorder that he died of,” stated Barnett.

The goal of this event is to further increase efforts to break down some of the barriers that are currently holding back physicians from curing and treating these rare diseases.