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Hillsborough leaders honor local researcher who helped develop Moderna vaccine

Posted January 12, 2021 2:50 p.m. EST
Updated January 12, 2021 3:09 p.m. EST

Kizzmekia Corbett, an immunologist with the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Health, responds to a question Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, after Rev Jesse Jackson received Pfizer's BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Roseland Community Hospital in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

— During its online meeting Monday night, the Hillsborough Board of Commissioners honored and recognized Hillsborough native and UNC graduate Dr. Kizzmekia "Kizzy" Corbett, who helped develop the Moderna vaccine.

Corbett was born in Hurdle Mills and raised in Hillsborough. She attended A.L. Stanback Middle School and graduated from Orange High School. She earned bachelor of science degrees in biological sciences and sociology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and in 2014 was conferred a doctorate in microbiology and immunology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

After the reading of the proclamation, Corbett thanked the board for the honor and urged everyone to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible.

“It is absolutely amazing to be recognized by my hometown,” she said.

Mayor Jenn Weaver, who read the proclamation declaring Jan. 12, 2021, Dr. Kizzmekia “Kizzy” Corbett Day, told Corbett that many in Hillsborough have expressed appreciation for her COVID-19 vaccine work.

“The town of Hillsborough has been extremely excited about your participation in developing one of our vaccines to get us past this pandemic,” Weaver said. “There are so many people in this community cheering you on and proud of you.”

Corbett’s research has been focused on the development of vaccines for novel coronaviruses, including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). Corbett and her team at the National Institutes of Health partnered with Moderna as part of the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 in record time and was recognized by President Donald Trump and the Coronavirus Task Force.

Corbett provided a written response regarding the proclamation before the meeting. “I am honored to be recognized by my hometown for my work on COVID-19 vaccine development,” she wrote. “It goes without saying that my roots in Hillsborough, North Carolina, play an important role in the scientist I have become. This is an honor that I will hold dear for a lifetime.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci and Gov. Roy Cooper also praised Dr. Corbett for her research just before the Moderna vaccine was granted Emergency Use Authorization in December.

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