George Marcellino remembered as innovator

March 4, 2021
David Hutton

George Marcellino, vice president of Iridex, is being remembered by colleagues as a man of substance.

The field of ophthalmology is full of interesting people who leave a lasting impression on everyone they meet. For many, George Marcellino was such a person.

Beyond the many innovations he brought to fruition that will have a lasting impact on ophthalmology for years to come, Marcellino’s quick smile and compassionate heart will be an important part of his lasting legacy. 

Marcellino, who became Iridex's vice president in 2017 after serving on its board of directors for 3 years, passed away unexpectedly on February 10, 2021.

Thomas M. Brunner, president & CEO of the Glaucoma Research Foundation, had worked with Marcellino since 1985, first LaserScope, a surgical laser startup and then at Coherent Medical Group, an ophthalmic and surgical laser division of Coherent which later became Lumenis.

“We became very close friends and shared wonderful times together developing and introducing major new ophthalmic lasers for treating many blinding eye diseases including glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy,” he recalled. “In addition, we collaborated on the development of one of the early innovative excimer refractive lasers. “

Brunner described Marcellino as a “renaissance man.” He was a scientist, entrepreneur, strategist, marketer, musician, photographer, sailor, and watch collector, to name a few interests.

“Perhaps my fondest memories are traveling with George to visit with leading ophthalmologists around the world to teach and learn about the newest innovations in laser surgery,” he said.

Brunner also noted that Marcellino was greatly respected for his knowledge of lasers and laser/tissue interaction and his keen understanding of ophthalmic surgery.

"I feel honored and privileged to have been counted among George’s many friends and to have been able to enjoy so much one on one time with him over his busy life and career," Brunner said. "I will miss him greatly and especially our breakfasts at the Diner in Los Gatos. He was a friend and mentor and passionate about his work and interests. We had many good times together."

Paul Chew, MD, an eye surgeon and professor at the National University of Singapore, remembered his colleague as a leader in the field of ophthalmology.

“It is my privilege to say that I worked with George on laser innovation and our paths crossed over the past two decades repeatedly,” he recalled. “The meetings were always pleasant, encouraging and reassuring. It made me have faith that there was a man of sense and substance in the ophthalmic laser industry.”

Chew recounted that as he discussed potential laser developments with Marcellino, he was always open minded, receptive to ideas and contributed back equally.

“His example encouraged me to go on to develop the MP3 laser therapy,” Chew said. “Later, when George joined Iridex, he worked to make a better MP3 Generation 2 device that made the therapy the way it should have been in the first place.”

Chew noted that Marcellino was always innovating. In fact, the last email that he received from his friend just days before he passed away focused on yet another idea that he was making into reality.

“He was clearly brilliant all through his life and I will miss his maturity, comfort and counsel sorely,” Chew said. “George uplifted the well-being of humanity with his work.”

Prior to joining Iridex, Marcellino co-founded OptiMedica Corp. There he led the development of PASCAL (pattern scanning laser photocoagulation) for the treatment of retinal disease and also the development of the CATALYS femtosecond laser cataract system subsequently acquired by Abbott Laboratories in 2013.

He then held the position of senior vice president of clinical affairs and general manager for Kedalion Therapeutics, a start-up dedicated to the development of semi-automated topical ocular drug delivery as an alternative to standard eye drop delivery.

Prior to co-founding OptiMedica, Marcellino held several senior management positions at the Medical Group of Coherent, Inc. where he served as director of the global sales and marketing organizations reporting to the division head and led the clinical applications research and market development efforts.

Marcellino is widely known in the medical community, having more than 35 years of experience in the medical device industry including high technology devices for sensory and motor impaired persons (Telesensory Systems), critical care monitoring utilizing reflection spectrophotometry imbedded within a pulmonary artery catheter (Oximetrix), KTP laser surgical applications including the development of laser cholecystectomy (Laserscope), and ophthalmic, surgical and dermatologic laser applications (Coherent).

Born April 28, 1949, in Brooklyn, New York, Marcellino graduated from City University of New York with BA, MS and PhD in sensory physiology and psychophysics. He moved to California in 1978 to begin a career that focused on solving unmet medical needs.

In the field of ophthalmology, he helped establish a number of products, including the Novus 2000 Photocoagulator, the Laser Indirect Ophthalmoscope System, the Selecta Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty system for Primary Open Angle Glaucoma, the OPAL Photoactivator (Photodynamic Therapy) for age-related macular degeneration, Selective Retinal Therapy for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy, the CATALYS femtosecond laser for cataract surgery, and Iridex's revised MicroPulse P3 Delivery Device for the treatment of glaucoma.
Marcellino also co-authored 31 peer-reviewed articles in ophthalmic journals, two textbook chapters, and was co-inventor on nine patents.

The George R. Marcellino, PhD, Memorial Fund has been established at the Glaucoma Research Foundation, where he served on the Research Committee. Donations may be made in Marcellino’s memory to the Glaucoma Research Foundation at www.glaucoma.org/marcellino.