Nicholas (Nick) Muzyczka, PhD, Professor Emeritus and Eminent Scholar in the department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology in the University of Florida’s College of Medicine, died peacefully at his home in Cocoa, Florida, on January 6, 2023, after a long battle with cancer.
He was born in Germany on February 11, 1947, the son of Ukrainian parents, the late John Muzyczka and Stefania Lawro Muzyczka, who were brought to Germany during World War II as forced labor. After the war, they lived in refugee camps until they immigrated to the United States when he was three years old.
The family lived in New Jersey, where Nick attended elementary school and high school. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from Antioch College in Ohio, and continued on to Johns Hopkins University, where he received his PhD in biochemistry in 1973.
As a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins, he began his work on gene therapy. In 1980, his lab initiated the development of adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors for gene therapy. Nick explained his life’s work as a quest to find a way to help those with genetic diseases by using the AAV virus as a gene delivery system — a way of getting good genes into the body and substituting them for the bad genes.
(Watch the interview at: https://youtu.be/ydYCnNCibUA)
Nick and his colleagues’ work on the basic biology of adeno-associated virus (AAV) replication led to the development of AAV as the leading virus vector for gene therapy applications worldwide. In 1994, he founded the Powell Gene Therapy Center at the University of Florida, where he served as Director for six years.In 1995, he was awarded the American Cancer Society Edward R. Koger chair. He is listed as an inventor on seven patents related to the use of AAV as a gene therapy vector.
In 2001, Nick founded Applied Genetic Technologies Corp (AGTC), a Florida based company that commercializes gene therapy applications, and in 2015, he founded Lacerta Therapeutics, whose mission is to develop therapies for central nervous system and lysosomal storage diseases. Nick was immensely proud of his life’s work and the work of his colleagues and former graduate students. He was fueled by a desire to help others and contribute to life saving scientific innovation.
Nick is survived by his two children, Katherine Muzyczka of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, and Zoe Muzyczka of Cincinnati, Ohio, his sister, Genya Muzyczka of Montclair, New Jersey, his three grandsons, James, Benjamin, and Alexander Lenhart, and his great granddaughter, Ronny Nicole Marie Pfister.
In accordance with his wishes, no memorial service is planned. However, his family, ask that in Nick’s memory, remember the many who have and continue to flee war torn, impoverished, and politically oppressive areas of the world. Remember that immigrants from all over the world, of all races, religions, genders, and ethnicities should be welcomed and given a chance to live and thrive free from fear.