IDCRC Leader Profile: Kathy Edwards, MD


Dr. Edwards is a professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and the Sarah H. Sell and Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair and scientific director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program. She is also the IDCRC Leadership Group Mentoring and Career Development Committee Chair. “Dr. Edwards’ impact on the field of Vaccinology and the health of populations is irrefutable. What I will remember most, however, is her ability to equip and empower others to be exceptional scientists and leaders – and to show us how much fun a career in science can be,” says Kathleen M. Neuzil, MD, MPH, Myron M. Levine Professor in Vaccinology, professor of medicine and pediatrics, director of the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and IDCRC PI.

Dr. Edwards will be retiring from Vanderbilt at the end of 2022. We thank her for her dedication and commitment to the IDCRC. The IDCRC team wishes her all the best in her future endeavors. “Kathy is truly a remarkable person and sits squarely in the pantheon of pediatric ID. She has been my mentor, friend, and academic mother for over 20 years. Vanderbilt and the VTEUs will not be the same without her curiosity, meticulous approach to research, and commitment to her trainees,” says Buddy Creech, MD, MPH, FPIDS, associate professor of pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt School of Medicine, director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program, and PI of the Vanderbilt VTEU.

Dr. Edwards briefly describes her time with the VTEU

In 1980, I began working within the VTEU consortium when I started my first faculty appointment at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. In 2001, I became the PI of the Vanderbilt VTEU and served in that role for nearly two decades. Dr. Buddy Creech, one of my former fellows, now leads the program. 

My involvement in the VTEU has been pivotal to my career. Within the consortium I have evaluated many of the vaccines that have been subsequently licensed for use in children and adults. I have studied bacterial conjugate vaccines, acellular pertussis vaccines, influenza vaccines, avian influenza vaccines, vaccinia vaccines, BCG vaccines, and malaria vaccines, to name a few. I have also been able to leverage the VTEU studies to provide the infrastructure for K23 grants to fellows to advance their careers in vaccinology. 

Many of the leaders in vaccine work at Vanderbilt were trained through collaboration with the VTEU studies. Participation in the VTEU has also provided the knowledge needed to serve on advisory committees for NIH, CDC, WHO, FDA, and pharma.

Dr. Edwards briefly describes memorable vaccine studies

I have had the pleasure of working on many exciting projects over the last four decades. Early in my career, I investigated the Hemophilus influenza type b conjugate vaccines and then progressed to pneumococcal conjugates vaccines. This work was very rewarding because it largely eliminated the major bacterial causes of sepsis and meningitis in children.

I also led the Multicenter Acellular Pertussis Trial (MAPT) in the early 1990s, where we were able to convince 13 manufacturers of acellular pertussis vaccines and two whole cell pertussis vaccines to be evaluated in one large study within the VTEU in over 2,000 infants for their safety and immunogenicity. Vaccines studied in MAPT were then selected for the large efficacy trials conducted in Europe by the NIH. 

I was also very active in the evaluation of live and inactivated influenza vaccines, conducting a large five-year efficacy trial comparing these two vaccines in over 2,000 participants. 

Dr. Edwards shares the importance of the IDCRC

I am extremely proud of what the IDCRC has been able to accomplish in terms of mentoring young investigators. During the initial two years of the IDCRC contract, I worked with Igho Ofotokun on the IDCRC Mentorship Group. We organized didactic and interactive sessions for the mentees and met with them biannually to review their progress and provide support. We also were able to pilot the first young investigator awards under the capable leadership of Anna Wald. The IDCRC Mentee-Mentor group also published a manuscript in CID on the impact of the pandemic on young investigators. I am very proud of the mentoring opportunities within the VTEU and the IDCRC for the past several years. Young investigators are the lifeblood of our profession and need to be grown and nurtured. Learn more about the IDCRC’s Training opportunities

Dr. Edwards' plans for the future

I will be retiring from Vanderbilt at the end of this year and have enjoyed my career in the VTEU and at Vanderbilt enormously. During my career, I have had the opportunity to participate in multiple vaccine safety initiatives on vaccines and will continue to do this in my retirement with consultations with CEPI, pharma, and other agencies. I have four children and ten grandchildren – my source of great joy and continued learning. I am also looking forward to spending more time with my husband of 52 years.