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N.C. scientist named among heroes of the year by Time magazine for COVID-19 vaccine efforts

Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett is a Ph.D. graduate in microbiology and immunology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Kizzmekia Corbett, an immunologist with the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes...
Kizzmekia Corbett, an immunologist with the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) looks on as President Joe Biden visits the Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory at the NIH, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021, in Bethesda, Md.(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Published: Dec. 14, 2021 at 1:12 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A scientist from Hillsborough, North Carolina who has made a big difference in the fight against COVID-19 has been named one of Time magazine’s “Heroes of the Year.”

Time magazine recognized four specific scientists from the coronavirus team at the Vaccine Research Center, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, Barney Graham, Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman, in this listing of Heroes of the Year.

Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett is a Ph.D. graduate in microbiology and immunology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dr. Corbett has widespread recognition by health leaders as someone who played an instrumental role in the development of the Moderna Vaccine and the Eli Lilly therapeutic monoclonal antibody.

She is the scientific lead of the coronavirus team at the Vaccine Research Center (VRC) of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Her focus at the Vaccine Research Center was to figure out the best ways to target coronaviruses, like SARS-COV-2.

The Time magazine article mentions that Dr. Corbett predicts the research from her team of scientists will help humanity defend against other viruses that may emerge in coming years.

“If we as scientists learn how to make a vaccine for a cousin in a viral family, and one of those cousins decides to make a pandemic,” Dr. Corbett said, “then we’ll be ready, because we can apply the knowledge from one virus and vaccine to another in a plug-and-play way.”

In a previous TIME Magazine story about Dr. Corbett, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, wrote that Dr. Corbett “is widely recognized in the immunology community as a rising star.”

Dr. Fauci says for the past six years, Dr. Corbett has focused on coronavirus biology and vaccine development, and that her work will have “a substantial impact on ending the worst respiratory-disease pandemic in more than 100 years.”

“We have taken a lot of the knowledge that we have gained over the last six years and applied it to a fairly revolutionary vaccine platform in collaboration with Moderna,” Corbett told CBS News.

In March 2020, Corbett walked then President Donald Trump through research at the National Institutes of Health. Two weeks after the tour, Corbett and her team started the first stage of clinical trials. The distribution of the Moderna vaccine came about within 10 months.

“The vaccine teaches the body how to fend off a virus, because it teaches the body, how to look for the virus by basically just showing the body the spike protein of the virus,” Corbett explained to CBS News. “The body then says, oh, we’ve seen this protein before. Let’s go fight against it. That’s how it works.”

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper tweeted about Dr. Corbett’s recognition.

“Dr. Corbett’s work helped save countless lives. This honor is well deserved. Congratulations Dr. Corbett.,” Gov. Cooper wrote.

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