When we think of the charge against COVID-19, a sea of white health experts and politicians are repeatedly poised as leaders in research efforts surrounding the pandemic. However, Kizzmekia Corbett, 34, is the name everyone should know and remember when it comes to the war against the coronavirus.
Kizzmekia is a viral immunologist and research fellow at the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health. She is leading a team of scientists to find a vaccine for COVID-19, which has taken more than 124,544 lives worldwide.
“There was, and is, already a fair amount of pressure,” Corbett told NBC News. “A lot of people are banking on us or feel that we have a product that could, at least, be part of the answer this world needs. And, well, whew, just saying that out loud is not easy.”
Since January, Kizzmekia and her colleagues have worked tirelessly to find the medical answer to the coronavirus outbreak. Kizzmekia is headed by Dr. Barney Graham, director of the Dale and Betty Bumpers Vaccine Research Center, located in Seattle, Washington. Here are five things you should know about Kizzmekia.
Kizzmekia’s team is the closest to a COVID-19 vaccine. If all phases of their clinical trials prove to be safe and operational, a vaccine could be available for doctors by early to mid-2021. Kizzmekia and her team are the first in the world to ever get this close to a vaccine for a new virus.
Kizzmekia graduated from the University of Maryland in Baltimore County in 2009, where she studied biology and sociology. She then went on to earn her doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and graduated in 2014.
When Trump visited the Vaccine Research Center in Bethesda, Maryland, in March, Kizzmekia spoke with him about her research. Three days later, the president signed a bill that granted $8.3 billion to coronavirus emergency response efforts, with $3 billion allocated toward advancing testing, vaccines and treatment.
Kizzmekia has studied coronaviruses since 2014, which is the same year she joined the NIH’s Vaccine Research Center as a postdoctoral fellow. Her proximity in working on the virus makes her an expert and a knowledgeable source regarding the virus, way before it’s outbreak last year.
“I am Christian. I’m black. I am Southern, I’m an empath,” Kizzmekia told Black Enterprise. “I’m feisty, sassy, and fashionable. That’s kind of how I describe myself. I would say that my role as a scientist is really about my passion and purpose for the world and for giving back to the world.”
She told the outlet that if she does discover a vaccine and wins the Nobel Prize, she would invite rappers Da Baby and Young Jeezy to perform at her award ceremony.
A Black woman, who is also a millennial, is in the trenches of science searching for a cure to one of world’s most impactful viruses. Kizzmekia is helping to guide our nation through one of its darkest hours.