Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society Honors Dr. Penny M. Heaton with 2020 Distinguished Research Award

Penny M. Heaton, MD, a renowned leader in vaccine clinical research and development, is the 2020 recipient of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society (PIDS) Distinguished Research Award. The award recognizes the outstanding investigative efforts of a PIDS member who, throughout his or her career, has made outstanding contributions to research with a significant impact on the field of pediatric infectious diseases. The honor was presented during the recent virtual PIDS Business Meeting held in conjunction with IDWeek, the premier scientific meeting for infectious diseases professionals.

Dr. Heaton is the chief executive officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute, where she leads efforts to optimize therapeutics, vaccines, and monoclonal antibody candidates, accelerate progress from the lab to the clinic, and develop them through proof of concept in target populations. Previously, she directed the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Vaccine Development and Surveillance team, which supported the foundation’s vaccine development programs against diseases including HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, pneumonia, enteric diseases, and polio. She has more than 20 years of experience leading vaccine clinical research and development for companies including Novartis, Merck, and Novavax. During her time at Merck, Dr. Heaton co-developed RotaTeq, a rotavirus vaccine that has been licensed in more than 100 countries and universally recommended by the World Health Organization for infants worldwide.

“Dr. Heaton’s leadership and passion for the development of vaccines, and delivery of vaccines to vulnerable populations is an inspiration to all PIDS members,” said PIDS President Kristina Bryant, MD, FPIDS. “PIDS is proud to recognize her with this well-deserved honor.”

Dr. Heaton is a graduate of the University of Louisville School of Medicine and is board-certified in pediatrics and pediatric infectious diseases. She began her career at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducting diarrheal disease surveillance and investigating outbreaks of foodborne and diarrheal diseases.


The Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society (PIDS) membership encompasses leaders across the global scientific and public health spectrum, including clinical care, advocacy, academics, government, and the pharmaceutical industry. From fellowship training to continuing medical education, research, regulatory issues and guideline development, PIDS members are the core professionals advocating for the improved health of children with infectious diseases both nationally and around the world, participating in critical public health and medical professional advisory committees that determine the treatment and prevention of infectious diseases, immunization practices in children, and the education of pediatricians. For more information, visit

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