Dr. Kizzy breaks silence on US court battle over Moderna vaccine patent

EXCLUSIVE: The Black scientist known for helping to create the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine says, "I sleep at night knowing ... the science that I put blood, sweat, and tons of tears into is saving lives.” 

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Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, also known as “Dr. Kizzy,” was part of the team that helped develop the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, and she recently spoke with theGrio’s April Ryan about her role on that team and the legal battle over its patent.

Dr. Kizzmekia "Kizzy" Corbett
In this Feb. 11, 2021, file photo, Kizzmekia Corbett, an immunologist with the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) looks on as President Joe Biden visits the Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory at the NIH in Bethesda, Md. Corbett played a key role in developing the Moderna vaccine. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

The National Institutes of Health, a U.S. government agency, and pharmaceutical giant, Moderna, are currently locked into a battle over who will get the credit for the creation of the vaccine, which was approved for emergency use in December of 2020. The vaccine is currently under application for full FDA approval. 

The NIH Vaccine Research Center, which is headed by Dr. John R. Mascola, Dr. Barney S. Graham, who recently retired; and Dr. Corbett, who is currently 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, is claiming credit for the creation of the vaccine. 

The NIH worked with scientists at Moderna to design the genetic sequence that is key to the creation of an immune response prompted by the vaccine. They have applied to be named on the “principal patent application,” reports The New York Times

However, Moderna noted on its patent application in July that it “reached the good-faith determination that these individuals did not co-invent” the sequence in question.

“I’ve decided that it is not my place really say anything,” Corbett said to theGrio in response to a question about the lawsuit. 

Dr. Kizzmekia "Kizzy" Corbett and President Biden
President Joe Biden listens as Kizzmekia Corbett, an immunologist with the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), right, speaks during a visit at the Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory at the NIH, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021, in Bethesda, Md. NIH Director Francis Collins is second from left. (Photo: AP)

She added, “the reason why I started doing this work is because I really wholeheartedly believe in the science, right? This science started out as a protein on a screen five years ago, and really got to the point of where it is now … where there are multiple vaccines, quite frankly, using technology that we developed, that are being used all over this world that are saving lives on a day-to-day basis.” 

“And that is the part of which I pray for,” she added. “So patent disputes and all of those things. I like to say I leave it to the institutions and the attorneys to really figure that out. I sleep at night knowing that lives have been saved and knowing that the science that I put blood, sweat, and tons of tears into is saving those lives.” 

Dr. Corbett noted that many people are making the risk assessment about vaccinating their children. Moderna announced last month that its vaccine is safe for children ages 6-11 years old.

“I just want to remind everyone that the same way that you make that risk assessment for yourselves, really making sure that you stay informed on a day-to-day basis, and via the right channels of information — also do that for your for your children,” said Corbett. “Listen to your children, because your children are also being exposed to information as they go into their schools and they talk to their friends, listen to them.

She added, “And remember that the way for us to really rise out of this pandemic, is to make sure that everyone is safe. And that includes children as well.” 

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