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Kizzmekia Corbett, Ph.D., is one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientists working directly to develop the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
Born in North Carolina, Corbett attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to receive a Ph.D in microbiology and immunology.
The African-American woman has received praise from top infectious disease experts and even the nation's top doctor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, for the role she played in developing the COVID-19 vaccine.
Corbett is the NIH's lead scientist for COVID-19 vaccine research. Back in March 200, during the early days of COVID-19 when it was just beginning its path of destruction in the United States, Corbett was among the NIH scientists who met with then-President Donald Trump. Corbett told ABC News that being part of that meeting was important for young scientists and people of color. She said that it was necessary for her to be seen and to not be just a "hidden figure." She also said she hopes the high level of visibility will inspire younger people of color who aspire to be scientists.
In February 2021, Corbett was highlighted in Time Magazine's "Time100 Next" list[ under the category of Innovators. Dr. Fauci wrote Corbett’s profile in TIME, who wrote that she was"central to the development of the Moderna mRNA vaccine and the Eli Lilly therapeutic monoclonal antibody that were first to enter clinical trials in the U.S." He went on to write that Corbett's "work will have a substantial impact on ending the worst respiratory-disease pandemic in more than a century."
During a time where vaccine skepticism is exceptionally high among African-Americans, Corbett has said she hopes black people will put their faith in the vaccine and in the scientist working behind the scenes. She has spent time working to rebuilt trust with people who don't have faith in the vaccine, presenting education about the development of the COVID-19 vaccine to Black Health Matters in October of 2020. More evidence of the importance of Corbett's work is an NAACP study that reveals only 14% of black Americans believe a COVID-19 vaccine will be safe. In response to this, Dr. Fauci said, "the first thing I want to say to my African American brothers and sisters is that an African American woman developed the vaccine that you are going to be taking."
Early on in life, one key opportunity made a big impact on where her life would take her. She attended the University of Maryland— Baltimore, as a Meyerhoff Scholar, which is an aggressive mentoring program for minorities and women in science. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that only 18% of all students graduate with a STEM degree, 2% are black. This is something that many people are pushing to change. When minorities are able to see people who look like them making tremendous waves in science and healthcare, like Corbett, it plays a huge role in starting to see those statistics change.