Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, a doctor with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), is the scientific lead for a project to develop a vaccine against the novel Coronavirus.
Corbett began working in the early days of January, as cases of a strange, pneumonia-like illness were reported in China. As a result, doctors at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland began digging for a vaccine to prevent the disease.
According to the New York Times, the processes leading to vaccine development could sometimes take up to two years, adding while they may not necessarily be helpful at the beginning of an outbreak, they can prove vital later down the line.
Dr. Corbett and her team are using the template for the SARS vaccine since the Coronavirus comes from the same family, swapping genetic code to make it more palatable for the current virus in a strategy that Corbett calls “plug and play.”
Corbett is a viral immunologist by training whose research interests entail elucidating mechanisms of viral pathogenesis and host immunity as they pertain to vaccine development.
She graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences and another one in Sociology in 2008. She is an NIH scholar and also a Meyerhoff Scholar. In 2014, she earned her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2014.
Currently, Dr. Corbett and her team have begun running the first human trials of the vaccine in Seattle, just 66 days after the initial viral sequence release, which according to her is “a testament to rapid vaccine development for emerging diseases.”
Volunteers will receive two doses of the vaccine – mRNA-1273 – that are monitored 28 days apart in an effort to see how well the medicine “stimulates an immune response to a protein on the virus’s surface.”
“Phase 1 will only test on 45 patients but the second phase of the trial will require a larger number of participants,” Forbes reports.
“Finding a safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2 is an urgent public health priority,” Anthony S. Fauci, head of the NIAID said. “This Phase 1 study, launched in record speed, is an important first step toward achieving that goal”.