Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, a viral immunologist with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is one of those soldiers leading a scientific team in Seattle, Washington on developing a novel coronavirus-COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Corbett and her team began researching a vaccine in January when the virus was discovered to be extremely deadly and making its trek around the globe.
Dr. Corbett has been a researcher for over 10 years and during that time her research included working on vaccines for SARS and MERS. “What we know is that this virus is in the same family of viruses like SARS, so it is akin, and about 80 percent genetically similar to the SARS virus,” explains Dr. Corbett in a video from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “Everyday we are learning more and more and more, obviously, because this is a novel virus, and even though we’ve been to this rodeo before with MERS AND SARS, there are so many unknowns.”
Because of their previous work on SARS AND MERS, her team had a head start in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. Now, like so many others around the world, they are racing to develop a vaccine.
In very simple terms, she believes the answer lies in a spike protein that attaches itself to the virus and enters the cell and by using mRNA to create an immune response that will prevent the infection.
She and her team have started human trials but having a vaccine ready for mass distribution may take a year or more. A new vaccine must go through several phases of clinical trials. “It would be upwards of a year before we have data from those types of studies that support a vaccine that is ready for licensed for general use,” states Dr. Corbett.
She is a graduate of University of Maryland with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences and a second degree in Sociology in 2008. She received a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2014.