The outbreak of COVID-19 has the world in a panic, hundreds of thousands of people sick, and a global economy trembling. Many scientists and health care professionals are working consistently to develop a vaccine solution in attempts to flatten the curve and keep the virus from becoming more deadly. Cracking the code to COVID-19 is Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett’s main focus as she leads her team of researchers for the right solution.
Dr. Corbett, a 34-year-old viral immunologist, is working with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as the scientific lead for Dr. Barney Graham’s Seattle based team. Corbett believes the key to cracking the code is by finding a way to prevent the virus from binding to normal cells.
“If you can block the spike protein from binding to the cell, then you’ve effectively prevented an infection,” said Corbett in an interview with the New York Times.
The goal of the potential vaccine is to help the body’s immune system react and block the spike protein when detected, thus preventing infection. Corbett and her team are using their studies from similar infectious viruses, like SARS and MERS, by studying spike proteins to develop experimental vaccination toward a cure. From their studies, she and her team have already begun running human test trials.
They began their work early January when health professionals learned how dangerously contagious COVID-19 had become. The number of vaccine trials and their success rates is unknown, but Corbett’s team remain hopeful throughout the process. Thanks to their knowledge of SARS and MERS, Corbett is hopeful that their newly developed vaccine will turn the Coronavirus into a preventable disease, making it a thing of the past.
Dr. Corbett has over 10 years of viral research experience with pathogenesis and host immunity. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences in 2008 and obtained her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology in 2014 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.