A Black Female Scientist is a Lead Researcher In the Bid to Develop COVID-19 Vaccine

Photo Credit: Chicago Crusader

Covid-19 has become a global threat, and dozens of researchers around the world are now racing to create a vaccine that will put an end to the deadly virus. Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, a viral immunologist, working with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is in the lead in its development.

Dr. Corbett is a lead researcher with Dr. Barney Graham’s coronavirus team in the Vaccine Research Center in the NIAID, which is a part of the National Institutes of Health. [The NIH, an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, is the federal government’s central biomedical research organization.]

In their team, they have been working tremendously in recent weeks to help test and develop an experimental vaccine invented by private biotech company Moderna Inc. Meanwhile, the Corbett team’s role is to grow a so-called “spike” protein, which is a crucial component of Moderna’s vaccine for coronavirus. [The NIH describes the spikes and virus as thus: “Coronaviruses are spherical and have spikes protruding from their surface, giving the particles a crown-like appearance. The spike binds to human cells, allowing the virus to gain entry.”]

Moreover, having been into similar viruses research for some years has given Corbett’s team a valuable experience at growing this protein. To that, they did grow the protein quickly and sent it to Moderna. On receiving the first research doses of vaccine from Moderna, Corbett and her colleagues immunized dozens of mice. After some days, they checked the blood samples taken from the mice to see if they were producing antibodies against that all-important “spike protein.”

Earlier this month, Corbett told The Associated Press that when her team sent word of the positive results, “it was absolutely amazing.”

Meanwhile, the work couldn’t have moved so quickly had it not been for years of behind-the-scenes lab testing of a possible MERS vaccine, Corbett added.

“I think about it a lot, how many of the little experimental questions we did not have to belabor” this time around, she said. When she saw the first promising mouse tests, she told AP, “I felt like there was a beginning of all of this coming full circle.”

Also, Corbett has told Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the NIAID director that it would take about 100 days to move into the trial. Whereas, the group did it in 66 days.

Bloomberg reported that although an actual vaccine won’t be ready for another 12 to 18 months, the announcement of the Moderna vaccine marks a new record in moving to human testing.

Corbett started her research in January when researchers first learned how infectious and contagious the virus is and how it spreads easily. Already, she has nearly 10 years of research experience in immunology.

In 2008, Corbett received a B.S. in biological sciences, with a secondary major in sociology, from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. Following one year of post-baccalaureate training at NIH, she enrolled at the University of North Carolina, where she obtained her Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology in 2014.

Great news for the Blacks, Americans, and the whole world!

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