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Kizzmekia S. Corbett

Kizzmekia S. Corbett

Kizzmekia (Kizzy) Corbett is an American viral immunologist.

Kizzmeikia (Kizzy) Shanta Corbett is an American-born viral immunologist working at the National Institutes for Health (NIH) based in Bethesda, Maryland, as a research fellow in the Vaccine Research Center (VRC). Corbett is the scientific lead researcher for the VRC Coronavirus Team, researching possible vaccine solutions for the virus.

Life and education

Kizzy Corbett was born on January 26, 1986, in Hurdle Mills, North Carolina, and is the daughter of Rhonda Brooks. Corbett and her family, which includes her mother, step-father, and six siblings, moved to Hillsborough, North Carolina after Corbett's fourth-grade teacher insisted Kizzy be placed on the "most demanding academic track possible."

Myrtis Bradsher

Myrtis Bradsher was Corbett's fourth-grade teacher at Oak Lane Elementary school in Hurdle Mills, N.C. Bradsher went on record with The Washington Post in May of 2020 to recall her encounters with a young Kizzy Corbett and, more specifically, her mother Rhonda Brooks, asking and urging Brooks to place Corbett in advanced classes for "exceptional" students, which led to Corbett's advancement academically.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Corbett received many acceptances to various colleges but accepted her offer from The University of Maryland because of her admittance into the Meyerhoff Scholars Program. In an interview with NBC News, Corbett stated she accepted the Meyerhoff offer because of the full-ride scholarship, the network, and the overall program.

While at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Corbett obtained a Bachelor of Science (BS), Biology/ Biological Sciences, General degree. She also was a member of Alpha Kappa Delta (sociology national honor society) and Sigma Alpha Lambda National Leadership and Honors Organization and graduated in 2008.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Corbett began her education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2009 and graduated with her doctorate in philosophy (Ph.D.) in microbiology and immunology in 2014.


Kizzy Corbett's science-related professional life began when she was in high school and has developed over the course of her education and professional experience.

Project SEED

At the age of fifteen, Corbett received an invitation to participate in Project SEED, an American Chemical Society merit-based summer experience program for economically disadvantaged teens interested in mathematics and science. She attended the program for two consecutive summers and was allowed to work in laboratories studying the chemistry of pharmaceuticals and other related fields.

SUNY StonyBrook

In the summer term of 2005 (May-August), Corbett worked under Gloria Viboud, Ph.D., in a lab studying Yersinia pseudotuberculosis pathogenesis, the development of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, which is a far-east scarlet fever-like ailment.

The University of Maryland, School of Nursing

From September of 2006 to May of 2007, Corbett worked under Susan Dorsey, Ph.D., while attending the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. It is not specified what types of work or studies were conducted.

National Institutes of Health

After graduating from the University of Maryland, Corbett went on to work at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a biological science trainer alongside Dr. Barney Graham. Together they worked on the respiratory syncytial virus's pathogenesis and developing an innovative vaccine advancement platform from 2006-2009. Corbett left the NIH in 2009 to obtain her Ph.D. from UNC at Chapel Hill but returned to the NIH after graduation in 2014 as a research fellow working in viral immunology. Corbett's early research focused on developing Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) vaccine antigens. During this research, she discovered a simple process to make spike proteins stabilized in a conformation that makes them more immunogenic and manufacturable. This was done in collaboration with researchers at Scripps Research Institute and Dartmouth College.

Dengue virus dissertation

During Corbett's time at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she focused on the dengue virus in Sri Lankan children under the supervision of Aravinda de Silva. Corbett studied the human response to the pathogens and the antibody production due to the dengue virus. Additionally, she studied how the virus DNA impacts the severity of cases. Corbett spent her off-campus fellowship in Sri Lanka as a visiting scholar with the Genetech Research Institute from April 2014 to May 2014. While in Sri Lanka, Corbett did follow-up exams on the children who provided initial samples for her research and obtained updated samples to study the antibody development further and write her dissertation that can be found here.

COVID-19 Response

In 2020, after the onset of the Coronavirus global pandemic, Corbett began working on a vaccine for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), at the NIH's Vaccine Research Center (VRC), after noticing the similarities between Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and COVID-19. The team used prior knowledge of the coronavirus S proteins to begin working on a solution for COVID. Using Corbett's prior knowledge and assistance and collaboration from the University of Texas at Austin, the teams transplanted stabilizing mutations from SARS-CoV S protein into SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins. Previously, Corbett had been a team member responsible for the cryogenic electron microscopy (CryoEM) structure of the SARS CoV-2 spike protein. This previous research suggested that messenger RNA (mRNA) encoding to S protein could be used to agitate the human immune response to produce antibodies against COVID.

Moderna Therapeutics Partnership

Corbett's team at the NIH VRC partnered with Moderna for vaccine development and manufacturing needs in 2020 and entered the Phase I clinical trial 66 days after the virus sequence was released. The phase I trial was conducted using 45 people and two injections that were delivered 28 days apart.

Moderna announced on November 15, 2020, that it had seen 94.5% efficacy in the vaccine in its Phase III clinical trial. The COVID-19 vaccine, also known as the mRNA-1273 vaccine, was co-developed by Moderna and Corbett's team at the NIH from its stabilized SARS-CoV-2 spike immunogen. There have been 30,000 clinical trial participants across the United States since the trial began in July of 2020.


May 11, 2021
Kizzmekia S. Corbett joins the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health as an assistant professor in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases.
October 15, 2020
Evaluation of the mRNA-1273 Vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 in Nonhuman Primates
August 5, 2020
The investigational vaccine, known as mRNA-1273, protected mice from infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, according to research published today in Nature.
April 12, 2020
The woman leading COVID-19 vaccine trials is Kizzmekia Corbett.
January 26, 1986
Kizzmekia S. Corbett was born in Hurdle Mills.


Further Resources


A high-throughput inhibition assay to study MERS-CoV antibody interactions using image cytometry


A high-throughput inhibition assay to study MERS-CoV antibody interactions using image cytometry

Osnat Rosen, Leo Li-Ying Chan, Olubukola M Abiona, Portia Gough, Lingshu Wang, Wei Shi, Yi Zhang, Nianshuang Wang, Wing-Pui Kong, Jason S McLellan, Barney S Graham, Kizzmekia S Corbett


March 1, 2019

A platform incorporating trimeric antigens into self-assembling nanoparticles reveals SARS-CoV-2-spike nanoparticles to elicit substantially higher neutralizing responses than spike alone



A platform incorporating trimeric antigens into self-assembling nanoparticles reveals SARS-CoV-2-spike nanoparticles to elicit substantially higher neutralizing responses than spike alone

Baoshan Zhang, Cara W. Chao, Yaroslav Tsybovsky, Olubukola M. Abiona, Geoffrey B. Hutchinson, Juan I. Moliva, Adam S. Olia, Amarendra Pegu, Emily Phung, Guillaume B. E. Stewart-Jones, Raffaello Verardi, Lingshu Wang, Shuishu Wang, Anne Werner, Eun Sung Yang, Christina Yap, Tongqing Zhou, John R. Mascola, Nancy J. Sullivan, Barney S. Graham, Kizzmekia S. Corbett & Peter D. Kwong


October 23, 2020



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May 11, 2021
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health today announced that Kizzmekia S. Corbett will join the School as an assistant professor in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases


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