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SLU Supporters: Stephen Peiper, M.D. and Zi-Xuan “Zoe” Wang, Ph.D.

As scientists and doctors around the country step up to meet the COVID-19 pandemic threat, Stephen C. Peiper, M.D. (Med ’77) and Zi-Xuan “Zoe” Wang, Ph.D., his wife, are sending aid to the heart of the effort, supporting the effort to develop a vaccine through a generous donation to Saint Louis University’s Center for Vaccine Development. 

The Philadelphia-based couple has given $750,000 to SLU to support research aimed at developing new vaccines for COVID-19 and other illnesses. This gift will establish a center of excellence in vaccine research and will be called the Stephen C. Peiper and Zi-Xuan Wang Institute for Vaccine Science and Policy.

An alumnus of SLU’s School of Medicine, Dr. Peiper is the Peter A. Herbut Professor and Chair of the Department of Pathology, Anatomy and Cell Biology at Thomas Jefferson University and Senior Vice President for the Enterprise Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Service Line of Jefferson Health System. Dr. Wang is the Scientific Director of the Molecular and Genomic Pathway Laboratory for the Jefferson Health System.

Dr. Peiper calls SLU’s Vaccine Center, which is one of only nine federally funded Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units (VTEU), “a jewel in the crown of Saint Louis University.” He witnessed the strengths of the center up close in the early 2000s, when the School of Medicine dean at the time invited him to consider joining the faculty.

“I reviewed the scientific programs, and there were multiple strong clinical, clinical/translational research and basic science programs,” Dr. Peiper said. “As I studied the Vaccine Center, I realized that it was second to none.”

Dr. Peiper’s scientific work, in which he contributed to the discovery of a receptor that allows HIV to be transmitted into cells, also established his perspective on what he describes as the “war against infectious diseases.”

“It is clear to me that it will be critical to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 in order to win this war. I had discussed the possibility of supporting SLU’s School of Medicine with Dean Robert Wilmott, and things came together for me: a deadly pandemic, the necessity of vaccine development and the excellence of the SLU Center for Vaccine Research. The path forward became obvious.”

A clinical laboratory scientist, Dr. Wang is involved in the urgent work of COVID-19 testing. She has led COVID-19 testing programs and her laboratory has provided testing for the 14 hospitals in the Jefferson Health System. 

“Having seen the rapid rise in the frequency of COVID-19 positive tests from this highly infectious agent, Zoe realizes that a vaccine to prevent infection is the best strategy,” Dr. Peiper said.

In addition to research on COVID-19, the couple’s gift advances the health sciences at SLU, one of five strategic priorities of the University’s Accelerating Excellence campaign. Specifically, it will support work at SLU to develop new vaccines for other diseases, a new computational biology team and infrastructure, and assist in recruiting new physician-scientists.

Dr. Peiper commends the SLU School of Medicine for standing the test of time, its multiple areas of excellence and its dedication to service. His experience as a School of Medicine student, which featured active engagement in patient care and significant involvement in the community, reaffirmed his belief that medicine is a social service. It’s part of what drives him to support the school as a donor.

“I think it’s good to support emerging programs and programs of excellence so they can go to the next level,” he said. “And I think Saint Louis University Medical Center seems to be rapidly expanding with new facilities and a new research building.”

Dr. Peiper wants SLU to become the region’s go-to center of excellence for vaccine development and evaluation, and would like to see the School of Medicine become second to none in programs that aggressively support its mission – to the point where critics say, ‘Well, that’s interesting, but how would they do it at Saint Louis University?’

“That’s my goal,” Dr. Peiper said, “and I think the vaccine center is a very good start.”