Obituary: Elizabeth Stuart, Directed Chlamydia Vaccine Research

Elizabeth Stuart
Elizabeth Stuart

Elizabeth Sutton Stuart, 77, retired associate professor of microbiology and director of chlamydia vaccine research, died June 29.

She worked in research at the university for 37 years.

Born April 15, 1940 in Rochester, Minnesota, she spent her youth in Rockford, Illinois, before coming east to attend the former Mary Burnham School in Northampton. She graduated in 1962 from Wellesley College and received a Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Chicago in 1967.

She was a staff fellow for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at North Carolina State University, where she was elected to the Society of The Sigma Xi in 1971.

In 1974, she joined UMass Amherst as an NIH Post-doctoral fellow in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology. She later became an adjunct professor in the department of microbiology, where she collaborated on research with the late Bruce McDonald. In 1996, she became the director of molecular microbial laboratory services and upon the death of Dr. McDonald assumed the role of director of chlamydia vaccine research. She was promoted to associate professor in 2000 and retired in 2012.

During her scientific career, she published more than 40 peer-reviewed articles, more than 50 scholarly abstracts and meeting proceedings and gave numerous invited scientific presentations.

She was issued six patents in the United States, Australia and Europe, most involving the development of a chlamydia vaccine and discovery of vaccine-related antigens.

Her research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, Biomedical Collaborative, through Baystate Medical Center, as well as corporate pharmaceutical companies such as BioVeris and Wellstat Therapeutics. She mentored numerous undergraduate and graduate students in her lab, many of whom hold prominent industry and faculty research positions today.

Among her most important contributions to science were the co-discovery and patenting of a chlamydia vaccine antigen called GLXA, the co-discovery and patenting of the utility of gas for vaccine delivery of SIV/HIV antigens, the co-discovery of the presence of live chlamydia in human blood donor samples and how to eliminate them, and the carriage of chlamydia species in breast milk. All of these findings have been published and widely cited in the scientific literature.

She was the widow of Alastair MacDonald Stuart, who spent most of his professional career with the zoology department. He passed away in 2009.

She is survived by her children Anne E. H. Stuart (James Dresser) of Turners Falls and Samuel Stuart (Michelle) of Sunnyvale, California; her sister Patricia (George) Carda of Wellesley; and her brother Edmund (Grace) Sutton of New York, New York.

Donations may be made to Hospice of the Fisher Home, 1165 North Pleasant St., Amherst 01002 or Amherst Rotary, c/o Richard Mathews, Treasurer, P.O. Box 542, Amherst 01003.

A celebration of her life will be held at a future date.