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Leading Coronavirus Vaccine Researcher to Speak at Andrews University


On Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021, at 4:30 p.m. (EST), the Andrews University Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry will host an online presentation by Kizzmekia Shanta Corbett, PhD, senior research fellow and team lead for coronavirus research within the Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory (VPL) at the Vaccine Research Center, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Corbett will address the safety and effectiveness of the coronavirus vaccines.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, current director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the chief medical adviser designate to the incoming Biden–Harris administration, who has served American public health for over 50 years, has spoken glowingly about Corbett: "Kizzy is an African American scientist who is right at the forefront of the development of the vaccine. The very vaccine that's one of the two that has absolutely exquisite levels—94% to 95% efficacy against clinical disease and almost 100% efficacy against serious disease that are shown to be clearly safe—that vaccine was actually developed in my institute's vaccine research center by a team of scientists led by Dr. Barney Graham and his close colleague, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, or Kizzy Corbett."

Corbett’s lecture on the Rapid Development of Safe and Effective COVID-19 mRNA Vaccines will be the third guest lecture in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry 2021 Winter–Spring Dwain L Ford Guest Lecture Series. This lecture series intentionally seeks to engage not only students, teachers and scientists but also the general public with chemistry-based topics of relevance and importance. Corbett’s lecture is co-sponsored by the Andrews University Office of Research & Creative Scholarship, Berrien County Regional Education Service Agency, Benton Spirit Community Newspaper and Building Excellence in Science and Technology (BEST Early). Contact Desmond H. Murray to learn more about the lecture series and this presentation.

Kizzmekia Corbett was born in Hurdle Mills, North Carolina, but grew up in Hillsborough, North Carolina, in a large family of step-siblings and foster siblings. She went to Oak Lane Elementary School and A.L. Stanback Middle School. Myrtis Bradsher, her fourth-grade teacher saw talent and promise in Kizzy at an early age and encouraged her mother to place her in advanced classes. She graduated from Orange High School in Hillsborough in 2004. Her first lab research experience was as a grade 10 student in the American Chemical Society’s Project SEED program. In 2008, Corbett received a BS in biological sciences, with a secondary major in sociology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), where she was a National Institute of Health undergraduate scholar and a student in the highly acclaimed Meyerhoff Scholarship Program (MSP). The Meyerhoff Scholarship Program was founded in 1988 under the guidance of UMBC President Freeman A Hrabowski III to mentor and nurture African American students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. In 2014, Corbett received her PhD in microbiology and immunology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Corbett was then selected to work at the Vaccine Research Center (VRC) of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as a research fellow in the Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory under the direction of Deputy Director Barney S. Graham. She has spent several years working on a universal influenza vaccine, which is slated for Phase 1 clinical trial and she has accumulated 15 years of expertise, including during her graduate PhD work, studying dengue virus, respiratory syncytial virus, influenza virus and coronaviruses. Her work also focused on preclinical development of a novel coronavirus vaccine, mRNA-1273, a leading candidate vaccine against the virus that causes COVID-19. Alongside mRNA-1273, Corbett’s team boasts a portfolio which also includes universal coronavirus vaccine concepts and novel therapeutic antibodies. As a trained viral immunologist, Corbett uses her expertise to propel novel vaccine development for pandemic preparedness.

The mRNA-1273 vaccine was co-developed by Moderna, Inc., a biotechnology company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. An FDA-approved Phase 1 clinical trial began unprecedently only 66 days from the viral sequence release. Following promising results in animal models and humans, mRNA-1273 was recently shown to be 94.1% effective in Phase 3 trial and has received Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA.

Along with her research activities, Corbett is an active member of the NIH Fellows Committee and avid advocator of STEM education and vaccine awareness in the community. Combining her research goals with her knack for mentoring, Corbett aims to become an independent principal investigator.

All are invited to view Kizzmekia Corbett’s online lecture at:


Founded in 1874, Andrews University is the flagship institution of higher education for the Seventh-day Adventist Church and offers more than 160 areas of study, including advanced degrees. Its main campus is in Berrien Springs, Michigan, but the University also provides instruction at colleges and universities in more than 25 countries around the world.


This article was written by Desmond Murray, associate professor of Chemistry, Andrews University and originally appeared on the Andrews University website.

Image by Kizzmekia Corbett, courtesy of Andrews University.


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