Pioneering COVID-19 vaccine researcher Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett to be lead speaker at forum



Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, a research fellow and the scientific lead for the Coronavirus Vaccines and Immunopathogenesis Team at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is the featured guest speaker at the next Health Equity Forum (HEF).

Hosted by the California Black Health Network (CBHN), the forum is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday, May 21. For more information, visit [email protected].

Dr. Corbett, also a noted researcher for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Vaccine Research Center, is a scientist destined for medical history books: she is one of the NIH’s leading scientists and part of a team that worked with Pfizer and Moderna to develop the two mRNA vaccines.

Dr. Corbett has been at the forefront of the development of the fight against COVID-19. Less than a year after the virus began spreading globally, vaccines began to be delivered to millions of health care workers and others at high risk.

“I understand that vaccines are a way to help level the playing field when it comes to health disparities. It was motivating (to develop a vaccine) but also sad,” said Dr. Corbett, 35. “I think as I have looked back on the pandemic, my work, and my team’s work in the pandemic, I feel like it was my purpose (to find protection from the virus.”

Dr. Corbett received a bachelor of science in biological sciences, with a secondary major in sociology, in 2008 from the University of Maryland – Baltimore County, where she was a Meyerhoff Scholar and an NIH undergraduate scholar.

Dr. Corbett later enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she obtained her doctorate in microbiology and immunology in 2014. A viral immunologist by training, Dr. Corbett uses her expertise to propel novel vaccine development for pandemic preparedness.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, praised Dr. Corbett for being on the front lines of the development of the vaccines.

In Time magazine’s second annual TIME100 Next list – an expansion of its flagship TIME100 franchise that highlights 100 emerging leaders who are shaping the future – Dr. Fauci wrote that Dr. Corbett’s work “will have a substantial impact on ending the worst respiratory-disease pandemic in more than 100 years.”

Dr. Corbett and her colleagues have been central to the development of the Moderna mRNA vaccine and the Eli Lilly therapeutic monoclonal antibodies that were first to enter clinical trials in the U.S. and now have authorization for emergency use.

“For the past six years, she has focused on coronavirus biology and vaccine development,” Dr. Fauci wrote for Time in its February 2021 issue. “During the pandemic, those years of research led to the discovery that a stabilized version of a spike protein found on the surface of all coronaviruses can be a key target for vaccines, treatments and diagnostics.”

The CBHN’s May 21 forum session will be a conversational interview followed by a Q&A. Dr. Noha Aboelata, the Founder and CEO of Roots Community Health in Oakland, leads the interview.

CBHN is the only Black-led statewide organization dedicated to advocating for health equity for all African Americans and Black immigrants in California.

The organization works to ensure that all Black Californians, regardless of their education, socioeconomic class, ZIP code, sexual orientation, gender identity, or housing or immigration status have access to high quality and equitable primary and behavioral health care.

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