Not Kunta Kinte’s “Kizzy”
Meet the woman who is being credited with designing the COVID19 vaccine being produced and distributed by Moderna:
Kizzmekia “Kizzy” Shanta Corbett (born January 26, 1986) is an American viral immunologist 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. She earned a PhD in microbiology and immunology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill) in 2014.
Appointed to the VRC in 2014, she is currently the scientific lead of the VRC’s Coronavirus Team, with research efforts aimed at propelling novel coronavirus vaccines, including a COVID-19 vaccine. In December 2020, the Institute’s Director, Dr. Anthony Fauci said: “Kizzy is an African American scientist who is right at the forefront of the development of the vaccine.”
In February 2021, Corbett was highlighted in the Time’s “Time100 Next” list under the category of Innovators, with a profile written by Dr. Fauci. In the Time’s profile, Dr. 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.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, Corbett was part of a team at the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland, and elsewhere, that was designing vaccines for other coronaviruses in collaboration with Moderna. The scientists’ mRNA technology delivers a piece of genetic code to a person’s cells to create immune-stimulating virus proteins. When the outbreak began, the team mobilized to quickly identify the SARS-CoV-2 genetic sequence it would need to make a vaccine for COVID-19, which Moderna then produced. Before trials began in people, Corbett designed tests of the vaccine in animals, and perfected assays that measured its effectiveness in clinical trials.
Definitely not Kunta Kinte’s “Kizzy”.
Currently, she is doing all she can to help debunk and dispell the vaccine hesitancy that is being fueled by misrepresentation and misinformation in communities of color.
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