Richard H. Quarles

Shared on 22nd January 2016

       Richard H. Quarles was an expert in myelin and myelin related neurological disorders, including multiple sclerosis and peripheral neuropathies. He arrived at the NIH in 1968 after receiving a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Swarthmore, a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Harvard University, and postdoctoral training in biochemistry at the Institute of Animal Physiology in Cambridge, England.

     Dr. Quarles began his distinguished NIH career as a Senior Staff Fellow for what was then the NINCDS (National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke). After five years, he was promoted to Research Chemist for the Institute’s Developmental and Metabolic Neurology Branch. In 1977, Dr. Quarles was named chief of the NINCDS Myelin and Brain Development Section. He led the branch for the remainder of his career at NINDS and in 1991 was also named chief of the Institute’s Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology. He held both positions until his retirement in 2007.

     Staring in the 1970’s Dr. Quarles became known for his seminal work on myelin associated glycoprotein. Working closely with long-time colleague Roscoe O. Brady, M.D., Dr. Quarles identified and characterized myelin associated glycoprotein and defined its critical role in myelin sheath formation. In the 1980s, Dr. Quarles extended his ground-breaking research into understanding the role of myelin regulating molecules and the immune system in a variety of neurological disorders, including multiple sclerosis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, and the peripheral neuropathies. Dr. Quarles published 173 journal articles and served on the editorial boards of the three peer reviewed journals and multiple advisory committees and NIH study sections. In 1984 he received the Public Health Service Special Recognition Award and in 1994, an NIH Director’s Award.

Dr. Quarles’ many scientific contributions will be appreciated by neuroscientists for many years to come. Those of us who were privileged enough to work with him will remember his quiet and gentle demeanor, his excellent sense of humor and his willingness to engage in scientific discussions.