Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett has taken center stage in the news media for her efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine as a key leader of Dr. Barney S. Graham’s Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory at the NIAID Vaccine Research Center. As Scientific Lead of the Coronavirus Vaccines & Immunopathogenesis (coVip) Team, the spotlight shines on her now, but she has been diligently preparing for this day throughout the course of her now skyrocketing career.
Back in October of 2018, as a Keystone Symposia Fellow, she presented her work on “Advancing Towards a General Solution for Coronavirus Vaccines” at the Framing the Response to Emerging Virus Infections Keystone Symposia meeting in Hong Kong. Now, less than 2 years later, she is at the heart of the vaccine response efforts for the largest global pandemic of our lifetimes, thus far.
Here Dr. Corbett shares the latest advances in the NIAID COVID-19 vaccine development efforts, which in collaboration with Moderna, have shattered previous timelines for design and implementation, progressing to Phase I clinical trial in 66 days following the viral sequence release. A Phase II clinical trial is currently underway, and the vaccine is on trajectory towards a Phase III efficacy trial to tentatively begin in July. Her presentation is followed by a one-on-one interview with JEM editor Gaia Trincucci, where she shares what it is like to work on vaccine efforts in the midst of a pandemic, while the whole world watches and awaits the results. She also reflects on her path to this place on the precipice of a pandemic, where she never imagined she would find herself, and shares some advice for the next-generation of scientists who aspire to follow in her footsteps.
Related Video Content
SARS-CoV-2 mRNA Vaccine Development Enabled by Protype Pathogen Preparedness
Kizzmekia Corbett, PhD, NIAID, National Institutes of Health
News Media Coverage
- “Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett — The Novel Coronavirus Vaccine.” Speaking of Science by NIH IRP. Radio Interview. 21 May 2020. https://irp.nih.gov/podcast/2020/05/dr-kizzmekia-corbett-the-novel-coronavirus-vaccine
- “Decoding COVID-19” by NOVA for PBS. Taped Interview. 13 May 2020. https://www.wgbh.org/program/nova/decoding-covid-19
- “CBS This Morning” by Jon Lapook for CBS. Taped Interview. 12 May 2020.
- “Chasing A Cure: NIH Scientist Kizzmekia Corbett Works To Find A Vaccine To End Coronavirus” by Madison J. Gray for BET News. 30 April 2020. https://www.bet.com/news/national/2020/04/30/chasing-a-cure--nih-scientist-kizzmekia-corbett-works-to-find-a-.html
- “AC360” by Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta for CNN. Live Interview. 14 April 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a09PhAqw16A
- “Working on coronavirus vaccine trials, Kizzmekia Corbett is 'not your average' scientist.” by Janell Ross for NBC News. 12 April 2020. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/scientist-kizzmekia-corbett-leads-way-covid-19-vaccine-trials-dedication-n1181626
- “Scientists Rush to Find Coronavirus Cure—but It Still Isn’t Fast Enough.” by Joseph Walker, Peter Loftus and Jared S. Hopkins for The Wall Street Journal. 6 April 2020.
- Excerpt: “Dr. Corbett is a researcher at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, or NIAID. For years, she and colleagues have braced for a pandemic.”
- “UMBC grad leads fight against virus.” by Mark Smith for The Business Monthly. 2 April 2020. Excerpt: “Today, Corbett’s knowledge is used to interpret and direct information. ‘All told, I do the science,’ she said.” https://www.newsbreak.com/news/0OdZv5Sa/umbc-grad-leads-fight-against-virus
- “Prior to COVID-19, Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett Was Formulating Success as a Black Woman in Science.” by Lydia Blanco for Black Enterprise. 2 April 2020. https://www.blackenterprise.com/prior-to-covid-19-dr-kizzmekia-corbett-was-formulating-success-as-a-black-woman-in-science/
- “Interview with Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett.” The Tarhelium. Volume 50, Issue 4. April 2020
- “Morning Goods with Madelyne Woods”. Radio Interview (live) on WOL-AM 1450. 30 March 2020
- “From Bats to Human Lungs, the Evolution of a Coronavirus.” by Carolyn Kormann for The New Yorker. 27 March 2020. Excerpt: “While the first sars virus attached to the ACE-2 receptor, as well, sars-CoV-2 binds to it ten times more efficiently, Kizzmekia Corbett, the scientific lead of the coronavirus program at the National Institutes of Health Vaccine Research Center, told me. “
- “Record Pace of Coronavirus Trials Could Be New Normal for Vaccines.” by Jeannie Baumann for Bloomberg News. 19 March 2020. Excerpt: “I think that this could be the new norm,” Corbett, scientific lead for coronavirus vaccines team at NIAID, said of a 100-day timeline.
- “Behind the scenes, scientists prep for COVID-19 vaccine test.” by Lauren Neergaard for Associated Press. 8 Mar 2020. Excerpt: “Corbett
says the work couldn’t have moved so quickly had it not been for years of behind-the-scenes lab testing of a possible MERS vaccine that works the same way.”
- “UMBC alumnae racing to develop coronavirus vaccine.”
by Sarah Hansen for UMBC Magazine. 02 Mar 2020. Excerpt: “Kizzmekia Corbett ’08, M16, biological sciences, says it feels like she’s “living in a constant adrenaline rush.” Maybe that’s because she and her team at the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have been working around the clock for weeks.”
- “ACS Project SEED Alum Helps Lead the Fight Against Coronavirus” by ACS News.25 February 2020. Excerpt: “As a senior research fellow at the National Institutes of Health, Kizzmekia Corbett is a key player in the global race to develop a vaccine to combat the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).”
- “NIH Lab Races To Create Coronavirus Vaccine In Record Time.”
by Rob Stein for Morning Edition. NPR. Radio Interview. 21 February 2020.
- “Insights on COVID-19 vaccine, mAb development from spike protein structure.” by Sandi Wong for Biocentury. 20 February 2020. Excerpt: “Kizzmekia Corbett, scientific lead of the coronavirus team at VRC, told BioCentury the team previously used this method to uncover the prefusion structure of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) spike…”
- “She has our back: Vaccine push has local connection.” By Dale Edwards for News of Orange. 19 February 2020. Excerpt: “With the recent daily concerns — and panic — over the Novel Coronavirus, it’s reassuring to know people like Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett at the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, are tirelessly working to find ways to help.
- “Lab 023: Don’t Pass the Coronavirus.” Dope Labs Podcast by Spotify Studios. Radio Interview. 6 February 2020.
- “NIAID Soundbites: Novel Coronavirus Vaccine Research”.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. 31 January 2020. make strides in race to create coronavirus vaccine”
by Peter Beaumont for The Guardian. 1 February 2020. Excerpt: “Corbett said that since the release of the Chinese sequence on 10 January, her team had been working around the clock to produce a stable version of the key protein that would prompt a strong antibody defense to prevent the virus entering the body.”
- “Researchers Are Racing to Make a Coronavirus Vaccine. Will It Help?” by Knvul Sheikh and Katie Thomas for The New York Times. 29 January 2020. Excerpt: “They used the template for the SARS vaccine and swapped in just enough genetic code that would make it work for the new virus. “I call it plug and play,” Dr. Corbett said.”
- “Corbett Continues Quest for Dengue Fever Vaccine”. UNC Global. UNC School of Medicine. Web. 14 February 2014.