In Memoriam: Shirtliff, Mark E.

In Memoriam: Shirtliff, Mark E.


Mark E. Shirtliff, University of Maryland, Baltimore, died on July 12, 2018 as a result of a rafting accident on the Yellowstone River. At the time of his death, Shirtliff was a professor in the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis in the University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD) and a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM). He also was co-founder and chief scientific officer of Serenta Biotechnology, LLC. He was a member of the American Society for Microbiology, and had been actively involved in the ASM Biofilms Conference program. He was an active member of ESCMID, served on the ECCMID Programme Committee (2016-2018), and as a result of his service on that Committee, was elected as an ESCMID Fellow.
Shirtliff was the lead inventor of a vaccine technology that is the basis for a multivalent vaccine against infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterial strain often resistant to antibiotics. Recently, Shirtliff was working to develop a hand-held technology that would be adept at identifying six of the most virulent kinds of bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus. His work on Staphylococcus aureus vaccines netted him the prestigious BioMaryland LIFE Award. Shirtliff was a leading expert in the field of biofilm, and worked at the Center for Biofilm Engineering, located in Montana, during the summers. He authored over 120 peer-reviewed scientific papers and book chapters in which he examined the biofilm mode of growth and the chronic diseases caused by pathogenic microbes.

Shirtliff was known for his multidisciplinary collaborations with colleagues, his entrepreneurism, and his mentorship of students, three of whom won the prestigious Graduate Program in Life Sciences Elaine Miye Otani Memorial Award.

Tributes as reported on the University of Maryland Website (July 16, 2018):

“Mark was a brilliant scientist and professor who pursued innovation and knowledge with seemingly unstoppable energy and enthusiasm,” said Mark A. Reynolds, DDS, PhD, MA, dean and professor of UMSOD. “His groundbreaking work in developing a novel way to speed the diagnosis of some of the most virulent kinds of bacteria has great potential to save many lives. Moreover, Mark was a remarkably generous colleague who, whether asked to sit on a committee, collaborate on a project, or launch a new research initiative, could be counted on to give his all.”

“Mark was a leading international biofilm researcher of exceptional productivity,” said Patrik Bavoil, PhD, professor and chair of the UMSOD Department of Microbial Pathogenesis. “He was a prolific author and a very generous colleague. His level of commitment to his research and students was remarkable. And his personality was such that once you met Mark, you didn’t forget him.”

“Mark was an incredibly prolific inventor and entrepreneur,” said Phil Robilotto, DO, MBA, chief commercialization officer for UM Ventures Baltimore. “He was a past winner of the prestigious BioMaryland LIFE Award for his work in Staph aureus vaccines, had recently helped launch the UMB startup Serenta Biotechnology, and was actively working with our tech-transfer team to start another new company based on his research. He was also always positive, upbeat, and just a tremendous person to work with.”

"Mark was a highly valued member of the microbiology and immunology community at UMB. He contributed in so many ways, as a teacher and mentor, a researcher and an active member of the university community,” said James B. Kaper, PhD, chair of the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at UMSOM. “He was a dedicated teacher and mentor who helped and inspired many of his students to become scientists themselves. He was a good and generous person who was a dear friend to many of us…"

(Source: University of Maryland Website; Full Obituary is Available Here)