Working on coronavirus vaccine trials, Kizzmekia Corbett is 'not your average' scientist
The day President Donald Trump went to the National Institutes of Health for an update on progress toward a vaccine for COVID-19, many of those who sat behind the presidential seal with him were white men well known in the worlds of science, medicine and, now, national anxiety control: vaccine and infectious disease specialists like Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. John Mascola, Dr. Barney Graham and the man who led the human genome project, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the NIH. Sitting next to Graham was Kizzmekia Corbett, an NIH research fellow.
In 2003, Fauci said at the event, NIH scientists managed to identify SARS and get a vaccine to stage-one clinical trials in 20 months. Now a team of scientists led by Corbett, 34, was poised to move to first-stage trials for a coronavirus vaccine — this time, in about two months.
That was March 3. Just 122 people had tested positive for the coronavirus in the U.S. Reporters stationed around the edges of the room asked the president about virus-related travel bans and his Super Tuesday predictions. No one asked Corbett — whom Collins had just described as a "wonderfully talented young scientist in our midst," as well as the only woman and black person at the table — a single thing.