According to the article, Marasco developed a technique for identifying common antibodies in viruses that could lead to a breakthrough for more comprehensive vaccines to treat viral illnesses, such as influenza or HIV/AIDS. He is on the faculty at Harvard Medical School and research staff of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and is also founder of the National Foundation of Cancer Research Center for Therapeutic Antibody Engineering.
Marasco's path into science was most unusual. After college, Marasco took a job as a technician in a kidney dialysis lab, where he developed an interest in medicine. This interest had to wait, however, because he started a roofing and siding business that became successful. His interest in medical science stayed in the background until he decided to return to the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1980. Marasco later did a postdoc at University of Michigan Medical School, where he also got an M.D. degree in 1986.
A decade ago, Marasco started compiling a library of 27 billion anibodies. Researchers can mix the antibodies in his library with target viruses and catch the antibodies that bind to the target. His work has been applied to the H5N1 (SARS) virus and most recently to the H1N1 (swine flu) virus. In the H5N1 case, Marasco's technique led to the discovery of a common feature of bird flu viruses that rarely mutates--and a common antibody that binds to it--and thus could make possible a common vaccine against these viruses. Vaccines now must target specific strains; when the viruses mutate, the vaccines become less effective. Marasco's discovery could change all that.
While our country needs good roofers, Marasco's career choice will likely have more widespread and beneficial consequences.