A Giant in the Vision Field

Lutty was a world-renowned expert in retinopathy and a mentor to many.

Published in Hopkins Medicine - Spring/Summer 2022

Gerard “Jerry” Lutty, Ph.D. ’92, an internationally known expert in the development of blood vessels in the eye and the first person at the Wilmer Eye Institute to go from lab technician to full professor, died Nov. 28, 2021, of complications due to pancreatic cancer. He was 74.

An inspiring mentor to many, Lutty began his Johns Hopkins career of more than 45 years in 1973 as a technician in the lab of Arnall Patz at Wilmer, a lab Lutty would later direct. He was appointed an instructor at Wilmer even before he earned his Ph.D. He retired In January 2021 as the inaugural G. Edward and G. Britton Durell Professor of Ophthalmology. Following his retirement, he worked as professor emeritus until his death.

Lutty became a world-renowned expert in retinopathy of prematurity, ocular vascular development, diabetic retinopathy, sickle cell retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). As director of the Ocular Vasculogenesis and Angiogenesis Laboratory (OVAL) at Wilmer, he led studies of the normal and abnormal development of blood vessels in the eye, with the goal of developing therapies for diseases such as AMD and diabetic retinopathy.

His experience in Patz’s lab, where he was involved in the earliest studies of inhibitors of neovascularization in relation to diabetic and other proliferative retinopathies, inspired him to earn his doctorate. In 1992, he received his Ph.D. in cell biology from Johns Hopkins, with a thesis on the characterization of a vitreous-derived endothelial inhibitor.

Assistant professor Malia Edwards, who joined Lutty’s lab as a postdoctoral fellow in 2009 to study vascular development under the person considered to be the leading expert in vascular biology, says Lutty will be remembered for his kindness (which he extended to everyone), as well as his humility, strong mentoring skills and passion for science.

“He always wanted to help people further their science. Even people I thought he’d consider colleagues referred to him as a mentor,” Edwards says. “In the vision field, he was a giant. He leaves such a legacy behind that his work will be referenced for years to come.”

Lutty published 172 peer-reviewed papers and reviews, three of which have been cited more than 700 times. Edwards says Lutty’s own dedication inspired that of others, with some researchers working for him for decades.

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