Black woman immunologist leads charge to develop COVID-19 vaccine

Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, a viral immunologist, is the scientific lead for a coronavirus team based in Seattle, Wa.

(Photo: YouTube/NIAID)

A Black woman doctor is heading up a research project to find a vaccine for coronavirus, as the disease continues to spread across the globe, killing thousands.

Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, a viral immunologist with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is leading the charge to develop a vaccine, with her team having started their research in January when the magnitude of the virus was beginning to be realized, according to Black Enterprise. She is the scientific lead for a coronavirus team based in Seattle, Wa., the report says.

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She was quoted in a recent interview with the New York Times about the race to find a vaccine for the virus. “If you can block the spike protein from binding to a cell, then you’ve effectively prevented an infection,” she told the newspaper.

Over the years, Dr. Corbett and her team have studied the effects of SARS and MERS viruses, particularly looking at spike proteins. She also helped develop experimental vaccines that never made it to market because those viruses had successfully been contained with the help of public health measures.

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With similarities among the SARS and MERS viruses, and coronavirus, Dr. Corbett believes that those experimental vaccines could be a jumping-off point in the search for a solution to the current global health pandemic, writes the news outlet. The first human trials are already underway.

Dr. Corbett has over 10 years of research experience and received a Bachelor of Science in biological sciences with a secondary major in sociology in 2008. In 2014, she obtained her Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Recently, the United States became the epicenter of confirmed coronavirus cases with thousands of infections being reported by several states. On Saturday, Donald Trump failed to issue a quarantine order for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, but instead opted to issue a strong travel advisory to be implemented by the states’ governors, the New York Times reported.