Kizzmekia Corbett

Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett is being credited with playing a key role in the development of the COVID-19 vaccine being produced by Moderna.

Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, a Hillsborough native and graduate of Orange High School, is receiving national praise for her contributions in discovering the Moderna vaccine, which was developed to fight COVID-19. One of the people heaping attention on her is the U.S.’ top infectious disease expert and head of the Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Anthony Fauci. 

"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," Fauci said last week during a forum hosted by the National Urban League. "Kizzy is an African American scientist who is right at the forefront of the development of the vaccine."

Moderna’s vaccine is expected to receive emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this month. Moderna’s vaccine is based on messenger RNA, or mRNA, technology. The vaccine delivers the genetic instructions for making the coronavirus spike protein, which the virus uses to infect cells. After the vaccine is given, cells in the body make copies of the spike protein.

In an interview with the News of Orange County in February, Dr. Corbett spoke about how her love of science began when she was in high school. She is now the Senior Research Fellow and Scientific Lead on Coronavirus Vaccines & Immunopathogenesis Team at the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

“People should also be diligent with washing your hands and coughing and sneezing into the crook of your elbow. These simple things prevent infections,” she said in the February story. “These are preventions we have iterated time and time again with all respiratory viruses. I also want the public to understand that we have your back. But it’s important that we don’t panic.”

The News of Orange’s interview with Dr. Corbett is available online at