Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, viral immunologist and research fellow at the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, has gone viral over the past few weeks after the news broke that she is leading the team of scientists working on the COVID-19 vaccine; playing a pivotal role as a black woman in combating the pandemic.
“What we know is that this virus is in the same family of viruses like SARS,” she said in a COVID-19 explainer video released by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “It is akin and about 80 percent genetically similar to the SARS virus. Every day we’re learning more. Obviously, because this is a novel virus and even though we’ve been to this rodeo before with MERS and SARS, there are still so many unknowns.”
Empathy coupled with trust is what Dr. Corbett believes will help flatten the curve and she is firm believer in giving back to her community with a goal is to make sure the Black community and America is healthy and safe.
Dr. Corbett has been called on by people in high places. President Trump is one of them. In March, Trump visited the NIH because of its groundbreaking research after five years of work.
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.