Professor John KG Dart

Honorary Member of staff


Dart, John

Qualifications / Professional memberships

  • MA in Zoology in 1971 (Christ Church, Oxford)
  • British Medical Association (BMA)
  • Royal Society of Medicine (RSM)
  • American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO)
  • Medical Contact lens and Ocular Surface Association (MCLOSA) Hon Life Member 
  • The New Zealand Contact Lens Society Hon Life Member
  • Member of Honor of the Slovenian Society of Ophthalmology

    Current NHS / University Post

    • Consultant Ophthalmologist, Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust since 19th June 1989 (Honorary since February 2020 after retiring from clinical practice)
    • Hon Professor of Ophthalmology, University College London 1st January 2011 – 31st December 2025
    • Affiliated to: The Institute of Ophthalmology, Department of Ocular Biology and Therapeutics

    Medical training

    • 1973 BA in Medical Sciences Trinity College, Cambridge
    • 1976 BM BCh in Medicine Oxford University Medical School
    • 1982 FRCS Ophthalmology Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) England
    • 1983 Higher surgical training in Ophthalmology RCS England
    • 1991 FRCOphth (incorporated) Royal College of Ophthalmologists
    • 1992 Doctor of Medicine Christ Church, Oxford

    Research interest / experience

    I am a clinical scientist with a track record of collaboration with colleagues in laboratory science. My research is focused in the areas of corneal infections and inflammatory diseases of the ocular surface and taking some of the resulting developments through to clinical trials.

    Corneal infections: my teams’ studies have resulted in over 80 peer-reviewed publications in this field. These studies, starting in the mid 1980’s, have made one of the most substantial contributions to understanding the epidemiology and pathogenesis of infection in contact lens users as well as other aspects of the management of corneal infections. Contact lens wear has been the focus of much of this work as it is the leading cause of corneal infection in healthy individuals, responsible for about half of all corneal infections, in the UK and other countries where high per capita income has permitted the widespread use of contact lenses. These studies have had a substantial impact on contact lens practice in the UK and Internationally following publications in the Lancet and British Medical Journal, as well as in the major ophthalmological and vision research journals, identifying overnight wear, avoidable hygiene problems, exposure to water whilst using contact lenses and the use of reusable contact lenses, as opposed to daily disposable lenses, as amongst the major risk factors for corneal infection. Laboratory research into microbial biofilms and the source of organisms has identified some aspects of the pathogenesis of microbial keratitis in lens users. We identified the causes of the first UK outbreak of Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK) in the 1995 and a subsequent outbreak in 2018. We have latterly used epidemiological genetics to investigate susceptibility to infection.

    In 1992 I led the introduction of a biguanide disinfectant, polyhexanide (also known as polyhexamethylene biguanide or PHMB), as the second (after propamidine) effective drug for Acanthamoeba keratitis. This led to the development of polihexanide as a licenced medication for AK, working with the Italian pharmaceutical company SiFi SpA helped with an EU Grant , culminating in a randomised controlled treatment trial of a new formulation of 0.08% polihexinide, published in 2023, and an ongoing licensing application for this as the first candidate for  a licensed treatment for AK. 

    Inflammatory disease of the ocular surface: currently this has led to 38 peer reviewed studies on these disorders. A major focus of this research has been into scarring conjunctivitis using mucous membrane pemphigoid (MMP) as a model disease. This has identified some of the mechanisms underlying both the associated conjunctival inflammation and scarring as well as evaluating medical and surgical treatment strategies for the condition. My team’s studies have identified some of the elements of the conjunctival inflammatory response in MMP and participated in the the first genome wide association study. We have investigated the autoantibody response in MMP and our findings have modified the criteria for the diagnosis of immunopathology negative ocular MMP to the benefit of patients many of whom have previously remained undiagnosed resulting in deterioration. We have also identified the cell biology underlying the scarring process. Which is what leads to blindness, in MMP by utilising in vitro human tissue in David Abraham and Jill Norman’s labs at UCL Royal Free and Julie Daniels labs at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, using the large patient resource at Moorfields. This led to the investigation of a mouse model of severe conjunctival inflammation in Virginia Calder’s laboratory at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology. These studies showed that in these models disulfiram, a drug used for alcohol abuse control, could block the scarring process leading to a patent for this use. The lead for the development of disulfiram as an anti-scarring drug in humans with MMP has, since my retirement from clinical work, now been taken over by Professor S Rauz at the University of Birmingham but in collaboration with myself, Saj Ahmad (Moorfields & the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Professor Abraham. 

    Current research

    Keratitis: I continue to examine and publish the data from the Phase 3 trial of drugs for Acanthamoeba keratitis which has resulted into valuable insights into the management of the disease as well as to a potential licensed formulation of PHMB. I am also working with colleagues on new projects around keratitis treatment and management. 

    Scarring conjunctivitis: I have two PhD students completing their PhD’s in the of conjunctival scarring processes and treatment and am collaborating with the University of Birmingham team on the disulfiram project which has now received MRC funding for a first into human proof of concept study.

    I intend to continue to facilitate research in these areas.

    Languages spoken

    • English

    Additional achievements

    Career overview

    John Dart’s first degree was in Zoology at Oxford following which he published the results of field studies on tropical echinoderm ecology. He went on to study medicine at Cambridge and completed his clinical medical training at Oxford later studying Ophthalmology at the Oxford Eye Hospital before completing his training at Moorfields Eye Hospital. This was followed by Fellowships in ocular microbiology with Dan B Jones at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and Doug Coster at Flinders University, Adelaide. He began his research into the epidemiology, pathogenesis and therapy of contact lens related keratitis, when a lecturer at the Institute of Ophthalmology (1984-1989), and for which he was awarded his Doctorate at Oxford. As a Consultant at Moorfields he developed an additional interest in severe inflammatory eye diseases. He provided a tertiary referral service for these disorders until retirement from clinical practice in 2020. He received the Moorfields Chairman’s Award in 2019 for “greatly enhancing our position as one of the world’s leading eye hospitals” which was substantially for building up the Moorfields service for inflammatory and infectious eye disease and the associated research in this field. He has been one of the pioneers in managing these conditions with systemic immunomodulatory therapy, integrating the resulting management paradigms with keratoplasty techniques. 

    This clinical work has been central to his research which is ongoing since his retirement from clinical practice. 

    He has given 20 eponymous lectures, including the 2016 Bowman Lecture (Royal College of Ophthalmologists), the 2019 Castroviejo Award (The Cornea Society) and the 2021 Montgomery Lecture (Irish Ophthalmological Society) and has been Visiting Professor at 7 Universities. He was Deputy Director of Research at Moorfields 2000-2012, Chairman of the Control of Infections Committee 1997-2011, Master of the Oxford Ophthalmological Congress 2010-2011, Chairman of the Cambridge Symposium 2011, and served on the Fight for Sight Grant Allocation Panel 2009-2014 and a Member of the Expert Panel on Avoidable Blindness for The Queen Elizabeth

    Diamond Jubilee Trust (renamed Scientific Advisory Board) from 2013-2019.     

    He has published over 250 peer review ed studies, 21 book chapters and I book.   He has trained 38 clinical Fellows, five of whom are Professors of Ophthalmology and has supervised 11 individuals in higher degrees (MD/PhD) of whom one is a Professor of Optometry and two are amongst the Professors of Ophthalmology.~

    Last updated
    4th March 2024