In Memoriam: John Guy, M.D., Esteemed Researcher and Physician
JOHN R. GUY, M.D., a Bascom Palmer professor of ophthalmology, holder of the Rodgers Research Chair in Ophthalmology, and one of the world’s leading experts in the field of neuro-ophthalmology, passed away on May 26, 2020 at the age of 68.
“John Guy was a brilliant physician-scientist, known for his pioneering gene therapy research for the treatment of Leber hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON), as well as his research on optic neuritis, multiple sclerosis and other diseases caused by mutations in mitochondrial DNA,” said Eduardo C. Alfonso, M.D., Bascom Palmer’s director.
Byron L. Lam, M.D., added, “John was an extraordinary top-notch scientist deeply devoted to the pathophysiology and treatment of optic nerve disease. We will always remember his contributions and miss his intellectual stimulation and understated quirky humor. John’s unexpected passing is an irreplaceable loss to the field of neuro-ophthalmology.”
Guy grew up in Queens, New York. He received a bachelor of arts degree from New York University and was awarded a doctor of medicine degree by the University of Miami School of Medicine. He trained in neurology at Temple University Medical Center and completed an ophthalmology residency at Georgetown University Medical Center. He later completed a fellowship in neuro-ophthalmology at Wills Eye Hospital and an observership in orbital surgery at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, England.
He began his academic career at the University of Florida in 1983, and joined Bascom Palmer in 2008. Having studied LHON for more than 20 years, Guy’s experience and knowledge are unparalleled. He pioneered a novel technological treatment for the blinding inherited genetic disorder. By successfully modifying a virus, he and his team were able to introduce healthy genes in the mitochondria to correct the genetic defect. Doing so prevented the deterioration of the retinal cells forming the optic nerve. This research demonstrated that when efficiently introduced into mitochondria, normal DNA can correct a biochemical defect in cellular energy production and restore visual function.
Guy’s approach to treating LHON exhibited the immense potential for gene therapy applications for many diseases similarly caused by mutations in mitochondrial DNA, not limited to the eye. The revolutionary gene therapy he conducted with his colleagues may provide the platform to treat other blinding and life-threatening conditions including cancers, Parkinson’s disease, aging, macular degeneration and glaucoma.
A world-class scholar, his research has been supported by the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health. At the time of his death he held four awards including a $6 million U10 grant, a recent $1 million R24 grant on mito-targeted AAV to treat LHON caused by ND4 mutation, and two R01 basic research awards.
He is survived by his wife, Helen. Guy’s patients valued his expertise and his colleagues respected his unparalleled excellence in clinical and scientific research. He will be greatly missed by all who had the honor to work with him.