2024 Alumni Awards Profiles

Carla Talarico ’99Carla Talarico ’99

Reunion: 25th
Residence: North Potomac, Maryland
Grinnell major: Independent major (neuroscience subject)
Other degrees: Master of Public Health from the University of Michigan (2003); Ph.D. in epidemiology from Michigan (2009)
Profession: Epidemiologist

3 ways Carla embodies Grinnell College’s mission of lifetime learning and service

  1. Carla’s work as an epidemiologist and international public health expert focuses on vaccine development, testing, and distribution with a particular focus on immunocompromised and underserved populations. Since 2022, she has been the senior director for AstraZeneca where she plays a key role in overseeing the creation of new vaccine and immune therapies.
  2. Carla was recruited by Moderna early in the pandemic specifically for her epidemiological expertise and her ability to build and sustain vaccine development teams. As the lead epidemiologist for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, she oversaw the observational effectiveness and safety studies that proved the vaccine’s efficiency while ensuring it was being tested with the proper rigor.
  3. Carla previously worked for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) to assist countries around the world to develop their disease surveillance and reporting systems. The bacterial disease surveillance labs she set up enabled countries to collect the data needed to make sound vaccine decisions.

Something you probably didn’t know about Carla

Carla credits a medical sociology course that she took with Professor Susan Ferguson during her senior year at Grinnell with helping her to make the connections between medical care and social inequities and to focus on using her knowledge to reduce those disparities.

A collage of photos featuring Carla Talarico ’99

Bonus Carla Fun Facts

  • In 2014, Carla moved into the private sector to work as a vaccine epidemiologist for GSK in Belgium, but she continued to be an advocate for public health interests within the halls of for-profit companies.
  • During the pandemic, Carla was never one to shy away from answering questions about the virus and vaccine whether it was for neighbors, family, or in her capacity as the advisor for her local school board’s COVID task force.
  • Carla made a presentation in 2021 at the American University of Beirut’s Women in Data Science Conference about using data to show effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.

A quote about Carla

“It is not a stretch to say that we would not have the COVID vaccine if not for Carla’s work as the lead epidemiologist for COVID vaccines at Moderna. The Moderna vaccine was one of the first to be widely available, and the speed with which it was developed astounded nearly all policymakers and observers. If you think back to the spring of 2020, even the most optimistic analysis assumed that it would be at least 18 months before there would even be candidate vaccines for testing – to say nothing of how long it would be before such vaccines were proven effective and could be available to the public. The work that Dr. Talarico and her colleagues have done showed that an effective vaccine could be developed, tested, and made widely available on a rapid timeframe in order to address a pressing public need.”

Jeremy Youde ’99

Read more 2024 Alumni Award Recipient profiles.