Meet Dr. Corbett, the lead coronavirus vaccine scientist

“What we know is that this virus is in the same family of viruses like SARS, so it is akin, and about 80 percent genetically similar to the SARS virus,”

–Kizzmekia Corbett

Kizzmekia Corbett and her team became the first of its kind in the world to start the early stage of clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine, and the fastest progress ever toward a possible vaccine. Since their start, forty other groups of researchers followed, including those in China and Germany. If her team is successful, which means all three clinical trials are safe, the vaccine may be available as early as 2021. Since the Coronavirus comes from the same family as SARS, Dr. Corbett’s and her team are using that template to swap genetic code to make it more palatable for the current virus I a strategy she calls “plug and play.”

Career 

Dr. Barney Graham, the man who led the human genome project, met Corbett while she was in undergrad working during the summer at the NIH’s Vaccine Research Center. He asked her what she ultimately wanted to do with her life. She replied, “‘ I want your job,'” Graham recalls, “From the very beginning, she was pretty bold in her aspirations. And I, if I recall correctly, I was just glad to hear help was coming.” Now she’s at Graham’s center leading the coronavirus vaccine development team.

According to The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the investigational vaccine, mRNA-1273, directs the body’s cells to express a protein that is hoped to trigger an immune response. It has shown promise in animals and is now being tested on its first human subjects, who will receive the vaccine over two rounds, 28 days apart.

Background

Kizzmekia “Kizzy” Shanta Corbett was born on January 26, 1986, in Hurdle Mills, North Carolina. Corbett received a B.S. in biological sciences and sociology from the University of Maryland (UMBC). In 2014, Corbett received a PhD in microbiology and immunology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Her advice to Black American’s 

In an interview with Black Enterprise Magazine, Dr. Corbett says, “I am Christian. I’m black. I am Southern; I’m an empath. I’m feisty, sassy, and fashionable. That’s kind of how I describe myself. I would say that my role as a scientist is really about my passion and purpose for the world and for giving back to the world.” She goes on saying to the magazine,”

As this virus is infecting and killing Black American’s than any other race, Corbell believes, “One of the things that have come out of this moment is that my community does not trust our government. I think I was blinded by it because I sit in a seat, to be frank, of privilege. And so, it’s disheartening because I have people say, ‘They chose her so that they can get us to believe that the vaccine is good and then they will just like don’t poison us or something.’ I want people to just step back for a little bit and just for just one second or a couple of seconds. Just think, what if nobody is out to hurt me?”

Adults in the Seattle area who are interested in joining this study should visit https://corona.kpwashingtonresearch.org/(link is external). People who live outside of this region will not be eligible to participate in this trial.

 “Everyday we are learning more and more and more, obviously, because this is a novel virus, and even though we’ve been to this rodeo before with MERS AND SARS, there are so many unknowns.”


Work Cited
“United States : Schumer, Gillibrand Announce Over $1.3 Million In Federal Funding To Help Remove Lead Hazards From Homes In Rensselaer County.” MENA Report, Albawaba (London) Ltd., Dec. 2018.

Soon You’ll Have a Black Woman to Thank for the COVID-19 …. https://afrotech.com/black-female-scientist-kizzmekia-corbett-covid-19-vaccine

Prior to COVID-19, Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett was …. https://www.blackenterprise.com/prior-to-covid-19-dr-kizzmekia-corbett-was-formulating-success-as-a-black-woman-in-science/

NIH clinical trial of investigational vaccine for COVID-19 …. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-clinical-trial-investigational-vaccine-covid-19-begins

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