Dr. Jeffrey Gilbard, pioneer for dry eye disease treatments, has died

August 19, 2009

Jeffrey Gilbard, MD, founder and chief executive officer of Advanced Vision Research, died Aug. 12 at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, following complications related to a bicycle accident. He was 55.

Woburn, MA

-Jeffrey Gilbard, MD, founder and chief executive officer of Advanced Vision Research (AVR), died Aug. 12 at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, following complications related to a bicycle accident. He was 55.

Dr. Gilbard is well known for his pioneering research that led to treatments for dry eye disease. He also is considered to be one of the first ophthalmologists and researchers to understand the correlation between nutrition and the health and wellness of the eye, according to a prepared statement.

In 1995, Dr. Gilbard founded AVR to market and distribute an over-the-counter eye drop (TheraTears) that he created to treat dry eye. His holistic approach in eye care included the use of nutritional supplements to improve the ocular surface and to treat and prevent retinal disease.

The AVR team, led by Leigh Reynolds, chief operating officer, will continue to run the company. Neil D. Donnenfeld, MBA, senior vice president of global sales and marketing, and Ruth Webb, who serves as controller, will continue to expand the business and offer new products, according to the release.

“Our company is grieving the loss of its founder and our close friend, Dr. Jeffrey Gilbard,” Reynolds said. “Over the past 12 years, I have worked closely with Jeff to build AVR. Jeff’s vision for AVR to make products to prevent suffering due to dry eye and other eye diseases was very clear. We will continue his mission of improving people’s quality of life. This is what Jeff would want us to do, and there’s no better tribute to him than to continue his work.”

Dr. Gilbard met his first patient with dry eye as a medical student in 1976 and decided something had to be done, according to the release. That research project became one of the most productive dry eye research programs in the world. In 1978, he received project grant funding from the National Eye Institute, and Dr. Gilbard still remains the youngest scientist in history to have received such funding, according to the statement.

“Jeff was blessed with extraordinary intellect and dedication,” Donnenfeld said. “He combined the two and made a significant difference in the world. He had no greater satisfaction than to hear that one of AVR’s products helped a dry eye sufferer-and he heard that frequently. His legacy will live on through the relief that dry eye sufferers receive when they use one of his products. We have lost a giant of a man.”

Dr. Gilbard was a clinical assistant professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School and director of the dry eye and ocular surface disease clinic at the New England Eye Center, Boston.