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A Black Woman is Taking the Lead to Develop a Vaccine For the Coronavirus

Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, lead viral immunologist working on COVID-19 vaccine

Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, a viral immunologist working with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), is taking the lead to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus.
Her work began back in January when researchers first learned how infectious and contagious COVID-19 really is. NI team was immediately formed to develop a safe and effective vaccine, and Dr. Corbett is very hands-on as she takes the charge.

According to The New York Times, Corbett and her team are working in Seattle and have already started running the first human trials of the vaccine.

Because the Coronavirus is similar to SARS, the team is currently using the same template for the SARS vaccine but swapping the genetic code to make it more palatable. Dr. Corbett calls the strategy “plug and play.”

Her background as a viral immunologist is very extensive. She has almost 10 years of research experience that entails elucidating mechanisms of viral pathogenesis and host immunity as they pertain to vaccine development.

She received a BS in Biological Sciences, with a secondary major in Sociology, in 2008. After one year of post-baccalaureate training at NIH, she enrolled at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), from where she obtained her PhD in Microbiology and Immunology in 2014.

Her dissertation research, “Dissecting Human Antibody Responses to Dengue Virus Infection”, garnered her several awards including a Doctoral Merit Award and induction into UNC’s Frank Porter Graham Honor Society. Notably, she also received a travel fellowship to complete part of her dissertation project in Sri Lanka.