Matthew During, MD-PhD, a pioneering neuroscientist who devoted his life to developing gene therapy for human applications, passed away on Jan. 26. He was 66.
Matt was born in New Zealand into a family of determined and independent individuals, including his mother, Dr. Zoe Petronella During, a ground-breaking physician, and his father, Peter Cornelius During, one of New Zealand’s leading soil scientists.
Throughout his life, Matt attracted an exceptional range of colleagues, collaborators, and friends around the world. He was a great communicator and an apt listener, known for his love for science and for inspiring others with his dedication, innovation, and refusal to accept anything as impossible.
He was a risk-taker with a playful and enthusiastic nature. He was a generous and well-loved man who was remarkable in his stoicism, especially at the end. He bravely pursued ground-breaking medical treatments with optimism.
Matt did his bachelor’s and medical degrees at University of Auckland before moving to the U.S. for post-doctoral training at MIT, Massachusetts General Hospital and Yale. He also had affiliations with Ohio State University, Oxford, and Thomas Jefferson University.
Matt’s pioneering work in the field of gene therapy earned him international recognition and acclaim. Beginning in the early 1990s, he worked with a small group of colleagues to develop techniques for delivering new genes to diseased organs to improve symptoms or prevent disease.
In 1994, he was the senior author of a seminal paper in Nature Genetics, describing the first application of one of these vehicles, called adeno-associated virus (AAV), for gene delivery to the brain. Over nearly 30 years since that publication, AAV has become the most popular agent for gene delivery to the brain in both experimental and human studies.
He is the author of over 250 publications, many of which are in the most competitive journals in the world. He won numerous awards for his work, including being named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for his contributions to translational neuroscience, as well the American Epilepsy Society Investigator of the Year, Parkinson’s Disease Foundation Award, Roche Translational Neuroscience Award and New Zealand Top 100 history makers.
Matt’s brother, Simon, captured him best: “He was more vital. He was more optimistic. He was more ambitious. He was more goodhearted. He was more gifted. And he was less worldly in the sense that the realities of the world most of us live in did not constrain him in the way they constrain most of us. He was freer.”
He is survived by his wife, Kerry Nix During, and two sons, Jasper and Felix, who live in Darien. He is also survived by his sons, Max and Zach and their mother, Helen, as well as his siblings: Simon, Camilla, Miriam and Michiel.
A celebration of life will be held at 4 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 5 at The Country Club of Darien. In lieu of flowers please consider making a charitable donation to CURE Epilepsy or The Michael J. Fox Foundation.
— an obituary from Lawrence Funeral Home, where online condolences may be left