Mark E. Peeples ’70

Research conducted by Mark Peeples ’70 is unraveling the mysteries of the most important unsolved childhood infectious disease, that caused by RSV (respiratory syncytial virus). While at SHS Mark served on Student Council and was a member of several clubs, including Political Science, Debate, Bi-Phy-Chem, Red Cross and Drama. He acted four plays and was a member of the Concert Choir, the Esquires, and folk group Train of Thought. Mark’s science fair project on the heritability of fingerprints was selected for presentation at the Ohio State Science Fair where he received a ‘Superior.’ He now judges student projects yearly at the State Science Fair, encouraging young scientists as he was encouraged.

At Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Mark earned a bachelor’s degree in 1974 in two majors, Biology and German Studies. He spent 8 months studying at Heidelberg University in Germany and traveling in Western Europe. He also worked two summers on a National Science Foundation funded project studying the Sandusky River and the effects of the Upper Sandusky sewage treatment plant on its ecology. He was on the bacteriology team and became fascinated with microbiology, an interest that he continued by studying viruses in graduate school at Wayne State University College of Medicine in Detroit. He and his advisor discovered and studied several of the RSV proteins. Early in 1977 Mark met Becky Brumberg in Columbus and later that year were married in Detroit. In 1978 Mark earned his Ph.D. in Immunology and Microbiology and accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. There he studied the bird pathogen, Newcastle disease virus (NDV), as a model for RSV.

From 1983 to 2004, Mark was a faculty member in the Immunology/Microbiology Department at Rush Medical College in Chicago, attaining the rank of professor in 1993. There he studied NDV, RSV and hepatitis B virus, and taught medical students and graduate students microbiology and virology. In 1995 he spent a sabbatical year working at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD, and was among the first to use the powerful new reverse genetics system for RSV.

In 2004 Mark returned to Ohio as a faculty member in the Department of Pediatrics at Ohio State University’s College of Medicine and a principal investigator in The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus. Mark has now trained 23 high school and undergraduate summer interns, two masters and 16 Ph.D. students, and 20 postdoctoral and medical fellows. He has written and published more than 80 peer reviewed articles and has been awarded three patents, with two more pending.

Recently Mark was appointed to a committee funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a vaccine against RSV for the developing world. He has been an active member of the American Society for Virology since its inception in 1983, serving as a workshop convener at the annual national meeting 9 times.

RSV is the leading cause of hospitalization for children with 100,000 infants and young children hospitalized each year in the U.S. In the developing world it is responsible for an estimated 160,000 deaths each year. In addition, RSV trails only influenza virus as a cause of ‘excess mortality’ in the elderly during the winter months, contributing to the death of an estimated 10,000 each year in the U.S. One technology that Mark’s team invented has been licensed by three pharmaceutical companies as a tool for the discovery of antiviral drugs against the RSV polymerase. Recently, his team has made several important discoveries about how RSV initiates infection of cells in the respiratory tract. Working with pharmaceutical companies he is using these discoveries to help them develop vaccines and antiviral drugs against RSV.

Mark’s parents, Bob and Ruth Peeples, taught him to value fairness, to be curious and to enjoy learning. His sisters and brother were, and continue to be a source of socialization, diversity and inspiration. They all moved to Shelby when Bob became the pastor of the First United Church of Christ in 1968. A strong science program and excellent, inspiring teachers at SHS, particularly Harryet Snyder and Bruce Archdeacon, encouraged and educated Mark on his science trajectory. Joan Arrington taught him to write, a skill that has been essential for his career, and Walter Hay taught him the importance of history and our place in it. Jim Hunter, Ray Vermilya and supportive Shelby audiences provided opportunities for him to attempt to manage his stage fright. Mark is surprised and profoundly grateful to receive this honor and is proud to be from Shelby. His nominator: Tom Armstrong ’70.

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