URI professor, vaccine pioneer honored by University of Chicago

Annie Searls De Groot is director of Institute for Immunology and Informatics, founder of EpiVax Inc.

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Dr. Annie Searls De Groot
Dr. Annie Searls De Groot

KINGSTON, R.I., June 11, 2018 — Dr. Annie Searls De Groot, a professor at the University of Rhode Island’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences and an internationally renowned immunologist, has received a Distinguished Service Award from her alma mater, the University of Chicago.

De Groot graduated from the University of Chicago’s medical school in 1983, and the honor was bestowed by the university’s Medical & Biological Sciences Alumni Association. The award recognizes De Groot as an advocate for a “genomes-to-vaccines” approach to solving some of the world’s biggest infectious disease problems, and for her dedication to expanding access to health care. De Groot says that she “was honored to be selected” for this top honor by University of Chicago medical alumni.

Over the last 35 years since graduating from medical school, she has worked on field campaigns to vaccinate against measles in the Congo (former Zaire), performed nutrition surveys in the segregated slums of Soweto and Alexandra Township, worked in villages in The Gambia on malaria vaccine research and has travelled many times to Mali, West Africa, with the GAIA Vaccine Foundation, for projects related to vaccine acceptance and vaccination promotion. Closer to home, she is the volunteer medical director of Clínica Esperanza/Hope Clinic, a free clinic for uninsured residents of Rhode Island.

She is also internationally known for her research on mapping the immune system using computer algorithms and is director of URI’s Institute for Immunology and Informatics, which applies bioinformatics tools to develop vaccines for emerging infectious diseases. She also is co-founder, chief executive officer and chief scientific officer of EpiVax Inc., a specialized biotech company in Providence that holds the exclusive license to the EpiMatrix vaccine design technology.

De Groot is the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases-Eli Lilly Award as a medical student, a Phase I and Phase II Innovation Award from the Slater Biomedical Foundation while at Brown University as an Assistant Professor, a Genius Award in Science and Technology from Esquire Magazine in 2008, the YWCA “Woman of Achievement Award” (Health Care), the Lifetime Achievement honor from Providence Business News’ Business Women Awards, was among R.I.’s Top Doctors (Providence Monthly) in 2010, received the Smith College Medal in 2013; was named one of the 50 most influential Vaccinologists by fellow vaccinologists in 2014,and was awarded Vaccinology CEO of the year in 2016.

She is the author of more than 200 peer-reviewed publications, holds more than 40 patents, and has received more than $32.5 million in National Institutes of Health funding.