Dr. Griffin was brought up in Nebraska and attended Grinnell College, and Stanford University School of Medicine. He was a medical intern and resident at Stanford, and did his neurology residency at Johns Hopkins, before going to the NIH as a Clinical Associate. He was on the faculty at Johns Hopkins since 1976, Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience since 1986, and Professor of Pathology since 1999. He was Director of the Department of Neurology and Neurologist-in-Chief at Johns Hopkins from 1999-2006. He was named the Director of the Johns Hopkins Brain Science Institute in 2007. In 2008, Dr. Griffin was appointed University Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Neurology, an appointment that has been bestowed on only a select number of faculty. His research career was devoted to the neurobiology and peripheral nerve degeneration and regeneration and to studies of peripheral neuropathies.
Jack’s honors include Jacob Javits Award from the NIH, and multiple teaching awards, including the Professor's Award of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He gave many named lectures, including the Robert Wartenberg Lecture of the American Academy of Neurology and the Soriano Lecture of the American Neurological Association. He was a former member of the National Advisory Council to the National Institute of Neurologic Disease and Stroke. He was former Chair of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Program in Translational Research. He was Past President of the Peripheral Nerve Society, the Society for Experimental Neuropathology, and of the American Neurological Association. Dr. Griffin was founding Editor-in-Chief of the journal, Nature Clinical Practice Neurology. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine. In 2007, Dr. Griffin was awarded the prestigious Johns Hopkins Heritage Award for his outstanding service to the University.
Dr. Griffin’s career spanned both basic neurologic investigation and translational research. Most recently, the laboratory was focused on three areas: mechanisms of degeneration and of axonal protection in nerve disease, mechanisms underlying painful nerve diseases, and the acquired demyelinating neuropathies. He published over 300 papers in these areas and edited major textbooks on peripheral neuropathies. Dr. Griffin led the initial translational studies of the basis and treatment for Guillain-Barre syndromes. He was an organizer of the North American trial of plasmapheresis for treatment of the Guillain-Barré syndrome, the first demonstration of an effective therapy in this disease. He led a team of investigators from Johns Hopkins, the University of Pennsylvania, Beijing Children's Hospital, and Second Teaching Hospital in Hebei Province, China, in investigating Guillain-Barré syndrome in Northern China. These studies defined an important variant of Guillain-Barré syndrome, Acute Motor Axonal Neuropathy (AMAN). Subsequent studies have identified the role of Campylobacter-jejuni enteritis as an antecedent to the AMAN syndrome, and have dissected the pathology and immunopathology of the disease. It has proved to be a disorder mediated by IgG antibodies against specific nerve gangliosides. The axonal form of GBS is currently one of the best understood examples of "molecular mimicry", in which the immune response to an infectious organism leads to an immune attack on similar antigens in the nervous system.
In neuropathies, he teamed with Dr. Justin McArthur in the early development of skin biopsies to assess epidermal nerve fibers, showing that these fibers are lost in many painful neuropathies. He examined the contribution of C-fiber nociceptors to experimental neuropathic pain and the responses of Remak Schwann cells in nerve disease. Recent studies examined the roles of growth factors in maintenance, degeneration, and regeneration of peripheral nerve fibers.