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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.