It is important to highlight those who came before us, especially those who paved the way for future generations to prosper. In honor of Black History Month, Med Soc Talk is honored to profile Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, the key scientists behind the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and lead for the Immunopathogenesis Team at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Dr. Corbett was born in North Carolina where she graduated from high school and went on to receive her Bachelor’s of Science in biological sciences and sociology from the University of Maryland within the Meyerhoff Scholars Program in 2008. “The program at predominantly white institutions is responsible for producing large numbers of African Americans who earn medical and doctoral degrees, including Jerome Adams, the current Surgeon General of the U.S.” (BlackPast) From 2006 to 2009, Dr. Corbett worked at the National Institutes of Health as a Biological Sciences Trainer where she conducted research on the respiratory syncytial virus and later moved onto the antibody response of children who suffer from dengue fever in Sri Lanka in 2009. This would become the basis on her doctorate dissertation at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2017. After receiving her PhD from UNC Chapel Hill in Microbiology and Immunology, Dr. Corbett would permanently join the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as an immunologist.
It is here that Dr. Corbett began her research on coronaviruses, working on the development of vaccines for them. Dr. Corbett and her team made the groundbreaking discovery of the spike protein in the current COVID-19 virus which is responsible for infecting humans with the virus. Dr. Corbett went on to become chosen as the lead scientist for the Moderna vaccine due to the discovery of the spike protein a year prior and gained funding from President Trump after showcasing her research during his tour of NIH.
At this point, the Moderna vaccine is continuously being administered to healthcare professionals and the elderly; Dr. Corbett and her team deserves an immense amount of credit for this. Dr. Corbett continues to reside in Seattle with her team and continues to publish scientific papers on the development of antibodies and infections. I would like to thank Dr. Corbett and her team for all they have done for the medical community and inspiring future generations of scientists and physicians around the world.