The OHSU School of Medicine announces with great sadness that Mark Asquith, Ph.D., research assistant professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Arthritis and Rheumatic Diseases, died June 6, 2019, of a brain aneurysm. He was 36.
Dr. Asquith was a promising young scientist investigating the microbiome and immune system. He had established research collaborations all over the world and became an admired friend and colleague everywhere he worked or studied. Tributes have poured in from the United Kingdom, Italy, Australia, Canada, China and throughout the U.S.
Dr. Asquith earned his B.Sc. from the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom, in 2004, his M.Sc. from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London, in 2005, and his Ph.D. from the University of Oxford, School of Pathology, in 2010.
He joined the OHSU faculty in 2013, following a postdoctoral fellowship in the lab of James Rosenbaum, M.D., professor of medicine, ophthalmology and cell, developmental and cancer biology, OHSU School of Medicine. Dr. Rosenbaum is the Edward E Rosenbaum Professor of Inflammation Research and head of the Division of Arthritis and Rheumatic Diseases.
“Mark was brilliant”
Dr. Asquith established his lab under the mentorship of Dr. Rosenbaum with a focus on better understanding the role of the microbiome in the development of chronic inflammatory diseases such as ankylosing spondylitis, inflammatory bowel disease and uveitis. His goal was to identify novel diagnostic and therapeutic approaches based on the microbiome for these inflammatory diseases.
Just prior to his death, Dr. Asquith had completed the submission of his first completely independent, National Institutes of Health R01-funded project with Dr. Rosenbaum, marking a major milestone in the young scientist’s career.
“Mark was brilliant,” said Dr. Rosenbaum. “He always knew more than I did, and he always shared this information modestly. He was working on a fundamental puzzle in human biology: what is it about a specific gene called HLA B27 that made it more likely to develop arthritis of the spine? The puzzle was recognized 46 years ago and remains unsolved, but Mark was closer to the solution than anyone in the world. I hope that the lab we shared can honor his legacy by continuing his work.”
Dr. Asquith was a recipient of grant awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Collins Medical Trust, The Medical Research Foundation, the Spondylitis Association of America, and the Rheumatology Research Foundation. He was a recipient of the Jane Bruckel New Investigator Award from the Spondylitis Association of America, recognizing him as one of the country’s most promising investigators of ankylosing spondylitis.
A private memorial service was held June 9, 2019.
Dr. Mark Asquith Fund
Dr. Asquith is survived by his family, including his mother Jo and three brothers. At the request of his family, the OHSU Foundation has created the Dr. Mark Asquith Fund to honor his work, continue his legacy, and support future research in the field of rheumatology.