Dr. Kizzmekia “Kizzy” Corbett is the lead scientist for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) team that developed the Moderna vaccine.
Before serving as a postdoctoral researcher, Dr. Corbett interned at NIH when she was 19. After earning her Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology, she joined NIH’s Vaccine Research Center.
Dr. Corbett’s goal has always been to work in rapid vaccine development. She graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in both biology and sociology before earning her doctorate from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 2014. In addition to spreading information about the safety and importance of vaccines, Dr. Corbett has been advocating for Black Americans who are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
For her doctoral research, Dr. Corbett focused on dengue fever with a goal to develop a vaccine. Dengue fever is the most significant mosquito-borne viral disease, with an annual economic burden of $8.9 billion and an estimated 50 million infections every year. It is challenging to develop a vaccine because of the virus’ complexity — its antibodies can actually support virus spread, allowing repeat infections.
Dr. Corbett’s research prepared her for working on coronavirus vaccines when she joined the NIH in 2014. While the COVID-19 pandemic took over 2020, SARS and MERS are two coronaviruses that have caused massive outbreaks in the past. The vaccine currently available is built on decades of research on coronaviruses.