On Friday afternoon, SLU professor Robert Mark Buller, Ph.D., was killed around 5:30 p.m. while riding his bike in the 10600 block of Riverview Drive. Police reported that an oncoming Audi A8, driven by a 56-year-old male, first hit Buller before hitting a Ford E-350 head on. Buller was pronounced dead at the scene.
Buller, 67, was an avid cyclist and a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology in the School of Medicine. He received his Ph.D. from the Institute of Virology, Glasgow in 1976. Buller liked to ride his bike to work, and went to church every morning. He would usually arrive at his lab around six in the morning and often not leave until six in the evening. Buller also appreciated other joys in life, such as enjoying the perks of being a Schlafly SIP Club member and socializing with colleagues. Buller’s research was very diverse, including work in gene therapy, vaccines and antiviral drugs for a number of lethal viruses.
Buller had a long list of achievements during his time at Saint Louis University, which started in 1994, and was set to end with retirement in 2018. Buller had about 175 publications, including several in the most prolific and well regarded journals.
Buller specialized in biodefense and advised the national intelligence community. He developed ways of countering the use of viruses, such as the smallpox virus, as weapons of bioterrorism. Post 9/11, Buller was a heavily sought after expert in the field. In 2003, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy praised Buller’s work as being “critically important to the biodefense of the nation.” This came after a controversy that started when Buller engineered a more lethal mousepox in an effort to show that poxviruses may be of interest to terrorists.
Credit belongs to Buller for the foundation of virology and immunology programs at Saint Louis University. His efforts led to the development of the aerosol biology core, which was used to study the immunity to tuberculosis in animal models. Buller also started the university’s Select Agent Research Program, which allowed scientists to study potentially lethal pathogens. Among the numerous grants he helped write, one was for the construction of level 3 labs in the Doisy Research Center, which puts SLU on par with the best virology and immunology departments in the country. Buller is responsible for millions of dollars of grants to the university.
Buller was also remarkable for his charitable contributions. When not working, Buller volunteered at Habitat for Humanity, Our Lady of Lourdes Social Concerns Committee and donated to organizations like Wounded Warriors or those that helped impoverished children in foreign countries.
Buller leaves behind his wife Joslyn and children Dawn and Meghan as well as a community of Saint Louis University faculty, alumni and students that benefitted from his presence. Charges were not filed against the driver of the car that killed Buller.
The visitation will be at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, March 4 at Our Lady of Lourdes, 7148 Forsyth Blvd., University City, followed by a Mass at 11 a.m. and noon reception. The SLU School of Medicine will have a memorial service at a date to be determined.