Kizzmekia Corbett

Last updated
Kizzmekia Corbett
Kizzmekia Corbett portrait.jpg
Born
Kizzmekia Shanta Corbett

(1986-01-26) January 26, 1986 (age 35)
Alma mater University of Maryland, Baltimore County (BS)
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (MS, PhD)
Known for COVID-19 vaccine
Scientific career
Fields Immunology
Microbiology
Institutions Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Harvard Radcliffe Institute
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Thesis "Characterization of Human Antibody Responses to Dengue Virus Infections in a Sri Lankan Pediatric Cohort"  (2014)

Kizzmekia "Kizzy" Shanta Corbett (born January 26, 1986) [1] is an American viral immunologist. She is the Shutzer Assistant Professor at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute and assistant professor of immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. [2] She joined Harvard following six years at the Vaccine Research Center (VRC) at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health (NIAID NIH) based in Bethesda, Maryland. [3] [4] She earned a PhD in microbiology and immunology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill) in 2014. [5] Appointed to the VRC in 2014, Corbett was the scientific lead of the VRC's Coronavirus Team, [6] with research efforts aimed at propelling novel coronavirus vaccines, including a COVID-19 vaccine. [7] [8] In February 2021, Corbett was highlighted in the Time's "Time100 Next" list [9] under the category of Innovators, with a profile written by Anthony Fauci. [10]

Contents

Early life and education

Corbett was born in Hurdle Mills, North Carolina 1986, to Rhonda Brooks. [4] She grew up in Hillsborough, North Carolina, [11] where she had a large family of step-siblings and foster siblings. [3]

Corbett went to Oak Lane Elementary School in Roxboro NC [12] and A.L. Stanback Middle School. [11] [13] Her fourth grade teacher, Myrtis Bradsher, recalls recognizing Corbett's talent at an early age and encouraging Kizzy's mother to place her in advanced classes. "I always thought she is going to do something one day. She dotted i's and crossed t's. The best in my 30 years of teaching," Bradsher said in a 2020 interview with The Washington Post . [12]

In 2004, Corbett graduated from Orange High School in Hillsborough, North Carolina. [11] In 2008, Corbett received a B.S. in biological sciences and sociology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), as a student in the Meyerhoff Scholars Program. [3] Corbett is among a cohort of recent UMBC graduates (also including Kaitlyn Sadtler) who have risen to prominence in biomedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic. [14] [15] In 2014, Corbett received a PhD in microbiology and immunology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For her doctoral work, Corbett worked in Sri Lanka to study the role of human antibodies in dengue virus pathogenesis. [5]

Career

While in high school, Corbett realized that she wanted to pursue a scientific career, and as part of an American Chemical Society-sponsored program called Project SEED, spent her summer holiday working in research laboratories, one of which was at UNC's Kenan Labs with organic chemist James Morkin. [1] [3] [11] In 2005, she was a summer intern at Stony Brook University in Gloria Viboud's lab where she studied Yersinia pseudotuberculosis pathogenesis. From 2006 to 2007, she worked as a lab tech in Susan Dorsey's lab at the University of Maryland School of Nursing.

After earning her bachelor's degree, from 2006 to 2009, Corbett was a biological sciences trainer at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where she worked alongside Dr. Barney S. Graham. At the NIH, Corbett worked on the pathogenesis of respiratory syncytial virus as well as on a project focused on innovative vaccine platform advancement. [1]

From 2009 to 2014, Corbett studied human antibody responses to dengue virus in Sri Lankan children under the supervision of Aravinda de Silva at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill). [5] [16] She studied how people produce antibodies in response to dengue fever, and how the genetics of dengue fever impact the severity of a disease. From April to May 2014, as part of her research for her dissertation, Corbett worked as a visiting scholar at Genetech Research Institute in Colombo, Sri Lanka. [1]

In October 2014, Corbett became a research fellow working as a viral immunologist at the NIH. Her research aims to uncover mechanisms of viral pathogenesis and host immunity. [13] She specifically focuses on development of novel vaccines for coronaviridae. [13] Her early research considered the development of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) vaccine antigens. [17] [18] During this time, she identified a simple way to make coronavirus spike proteins that are stabilized in a conformation that renders them more immunogenic and manufacturable, in collaboration with researchers at Scripps Research Institute and Dartmouth College. [19]

Development of COVID-19 vaccine

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Corbett started working on a vaccine to protect people from coronavirus disease. [3] Recognizing that the virus was similar to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus, Corbett's team utilized previous knowledge of optimal coronavirus S proteins to tackle the novel coronavirus. [20] [21] S proteins form a “crown” on the surface of coronaviruses and are crucial for engagement of host cell receptors and the initiation of membrane fusion in coronavirus disease. This makes them a particularly vulnerable target for coronavirus prophylactics and therapeutics. Based on her previous research, Corbett's team, in collaboration with Jason McLellan and other investigators at The University of Texas at Austin, [22] transplanted stabilizing mutations from SARS-CoV S protein into SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. [19] She was part of the NIH team who helped solve the cryogenic electron microscopy (CryoEM) structure of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. [23] Her prior research suggested that messenger RNA (mRNA) encoding S protein could be used to excite the immune response to produce protective antibodies against coronavirus disease 2019. [19] [24]

To manufacture and test the COVID-19 vaccine Corbett's team partnered with Moderna, a biotechnology company, to rapidly enter animal studies. Subsequently, the vaccine entered Phase 1 clinical trial only 66 days after the virus sequence was released. The trial, to be completed in at least 45 people, is a dose escalation study in the form of two injections separated by 28 days. [25] In December 2020, the Institute's Director, Anthony Fauci said: "Kizzy is an African American scientist who is right at the forefront of the development of the vaccine." [26] In the Time's profile, Fauci wrote that Corbett has "been 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." and that "her work will have a substantial impact on ending the worst respiratory-disease pandemic in more than 100 years." [10] Corbett's work afforded her the opportunity to be a part of the National Institutes of Health team that had Donald Trump at the Dale and Betty Bumpers Vaccine Research Center in March 2020. [4] [27] [28] [29] When asked about her involvement with the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, Corbett said, "To be living in this moment where I have the opportunity to work on something that has imminent global importance…it's just a surreal moment for me". [30] [31] Corbett stated she cried when the efficacy results showed the mRNA-1273 Moderna vaccine worked. [32]

Corbett has called for the public to be cautious and respectful of one another during the coronavirus pandemic, explaining that regular hand washing and sneezing into one's elbow can help to minimize the spread of the virus. She has also emphasized that we should not stigmatize people who may be from areas where the virus started. [11]

Corbett has worked to rebuild trust with vaccine hesitant populations such as the Black community. [33] [34] [35] For example, she presented education about the COVID-19 vaccine development to Black Health Matters in October 2020. [36] [37] Her race has been a focus of government outreach; after a study released by the NAACP and others revealed that only 14% of black Americans believe a COVID-19 vaccine will be safe, NIAID Director Fauci was explicit: "the first thing you might want to say to my African American brothers and sisters is that the vaccine that you're going to be taking was developed by an African American woman." [38]

Controversial tweets

In May 2020, The Washington Post reported that Corbett had been scrutinized for tweets lamenting the lack of diversity on President Trump's coronavirus taskforce, as well as for her responses to other tweets about data that African Americans were disproportionately dying from the virus. [12] Fox News news host Tucker Carlson read several of Corbett's tweets on his show, accusing her of "spouting lunatic conspiracy theories." [12] Another Fox News article said she "adopts a strikingly casual and conspiratorial tone." [39] After the controversy, Corbett scaled back her use of social media and stopped appearing on television. [12] Texas Southern University professor Robert Bullard and President of the American Medical Association Oliver Brooks defended Corbett, saying she had been ridiculed for speaking the truth. [12]

Academic service

Corbett regularly shares information on Twitter and takes part in programs to inspire youth in underserved communities. [13]

Honors

Selected works and publications

Related Research Articles

Severe acute respiratory syndrome Disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a viral respiratory disease of zoonotic origin caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus, the first identified strain of the SARS coronavirus species severe acute respiratory syndrome–related coronavirus (SARSr-CoV). The syndrome caused the 2002–2004 SARS outbreak. Around late 2017, Chinese scientists traced the virus through the intermediary of Asian palm civets to cave-dwelling horseshoe bats in Xiyang Yi Ethnic Township, Yunnan.

Anthony Fauci American immunologist and NIAID director

Anthony Stephen Fauci is an American physician-scientist and immunologist serving as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the Chief Medical Advisor to the President.

EcoHealth Alliance is a US-based non-governmental organization with a stated mission of protecting people, animals, and the environment from emerging infectious diseases. The nonprofit is focused on research that aims to prevent pandemics and promote conservation in hotspot regions worldwide.

Vaccine Research Center

The Dale and Betty Bumpers Vaccine Research Center, more commonly known as the Vaccine Research Center (VRC), is an Intramural Division of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, one of the US National Institutes of Health. The mission of the VRC is "to conduct research that facilitates the development of effective vaccines for human disease." The primary focus of research is the development of vaccines for AIDS, but the VRC also is working to develop vaccines for Ebola and the Marburg virus, and therapeutic antibodies against SARS-CoV2.

Dengue vaccine is a vaccine used to prevent dengue fever in humans. Development of dengue vaccines began in the 1920s, but was hindered by the need to create immunity against all four dengue serotypes.

A Zika virus vaccine is designed to prevent the symptoms and complications of Zika virus infection in humans. As Zika virus infection of pregnant women may result in congenital defects in the newborn, the vaccine will attempt to protect against congenital Zika syndrome during the current or any future outbreak. As of April 2019, no vaccines have been approved for clinical use, however a number of vaccines are currently in clinical trials. The goal of a Zika virus vaccine is to produce specific antibodies against the Zika virus to prevent infection and severe disease. The challenges in developing a safe and effective vaccine include limiting side effects such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, a potential consequence of Zika virus infection. Additionally, as dengue virus is closely related to Zika virus, the vaccine needs to minimize the possibility of antibody-dependent enhancement of dengue virus infection.

Bette Korber American computational biologist

Bette Korber is an American computational biologist focusing on the molecular biology and population genetics of the HIV virus that causes infection and eventually AIDS. She has contributed heavily to efforts to obtain an effective HIV vaccine. She created a database at Los Alamos National Laboratory that has enabled her to design novel mosaic HIV vaccines, one of which is currently in human testing in Africa. The database contains thousands of HIV genome sequences and related data.

Wuhan Institute of Virology Research Institute in Wuhan, Hubei, China

The Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences is a research institute on virology administered by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), which reports to the State Council of the People's Republic of China. The institute is one of nine independent organisations in the Wuhan Branch of the CAS. Located in Jiangxia District, Wuhan, Hubei, it opened mainland China's first biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) laboratory. The institute has collaborated with the Galveston National Laboratory in the United States, the Centre International de Recherche en Infectiologie in France, and the National Microbiology Laboratory in Canada. The institute has been an active premier research center for the study of coronaviruses.

COVID-19 Contagious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a contagious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first known case was identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. The disease has since spread worldwide, leading to an ongoing pandemic.

Moderna COVID-19 vaccine RNA COVID-19 vaccine

The Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine, codenamed mRNA-1273 and sold under the brand name Spikevax, is a COVID-19 vaccine developed by American company Moderna, the United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). It is authorized for use in people aged twelve years and older in some jurisdictions and for people eighteen years and older in other jurisdictions to provide protection against COVID-19 which is caused by infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It is designed to be administered as two or three 0.5 mL doses given by intramuscular injection at an interval of at least 28 days apart.

Caitlin Rivers American emerging infectious disease epidemiologist

Caitlin M. Rivers is an American epidemiologist who as Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, specializing on improving epidemic preparedness. Rivers is currently working on the American response to the COVID-19 pandemic with a focus on the incorporation of infectious disease modeling and forecasting into public health decision making.

Angela Rasmussen American virologist and researcher

Angela Rasmussen is an American virologist at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.

Peter Daszak British-American zoologist

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Natalie E. Dean is an American biostatistician specializing in infectious disease epidemiology. Dean is currently an assistant professor of Biostatistics at the University of Florida. Her research involves epidemiological modeling of outbreaks, including Ebola, Zika and COVID-19.

<i>Decoding COVID-19</i> 2020 PBS documentary film

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Jason S. McLellan is a structural biologist, professor in the Department of Molecular Biosciences and Robert A. Welch Chair in Chemistry at The University of Texas at Austin who specializes in understanding the structure and function of viral proteins, including those of coronaviruses. His research focuses on applying structural information to the rational design of vaccines and other therapies for viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. McLellan and his team collaborated with researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ Vaccine Research Center to design a stabilized version of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which biotechnology company Moderna used as the basis for the vaccine mRNA-1273, the first COVID-19 vaccine candidate to enter phase I clinical trials in the U.S. At least three other vaccines use this modified spike protein: those from Pfizer and BioNTech; Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceutica; and Novavax.

Scott Halstead American scientist and virologist

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Coronavirus spike protein Glycoprotein spike on a viral capsid or viral envelope

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