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Capital City Juneteenth Celebration 2021

Plans for the Capital City Juneteenth Celebration 2021 will be contingent upon the governor's guidelines for gatherings based on the status of the COVID-19 Virus. Please revisit the website, periodically, for updated information about the celebration for June 19, and 20, 2021.


Dr. Kizzmekia “Kizzy” Shanta Corbett, a 35-year-old African American female who co-led the National Institutes of Health team that discovered Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine, will go down in history for leading the effort to solve the COVID-19 pandemic.

 According to Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Dr. Corbett has "been central to the development of the Moderna mRNA vaccine and the Eli Lilly therapeutic monoclonal antibody that were first to enter clinical trials in the U.S." and that "her work will have a substantial impact on ending the worst respiratory-disease pandemic in more than 100 years."
Dr. Corbett was born in Hurdle Mills, North Carolina to Rhonda Brooks. She grew up in Hillsborough, North Carolina, where she had a large family of step-siblings and foster siblings.

Capital City Juneteenth Celebration






Corbett went to Oak Lane Elementary School and A.L. Stanback Middle School.

 In 2004, Corbett graduated from Orange High School in Hillsborough, North Carolina. 

 In 2008, Corbett received a B.S. in biological sciences and sociology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), as a student in the Meyerhoff Scholars Program.

In 2014, Corbett received a PhD in microbiology and immunology

from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

For her doctoral work, Corbett worked in Sri Lanka to study the role of human antibodies in dengue virus pathogenesis.


While in high school, Corbett realized that she wanted to pursue a scientific career, and as part of a program called ProjectSEED, spent her summer holiday working in research laboratories, one of which was at UNC's Kenan Labs with organic chemist James Morkin. 

In 2005, she was a summer intern at Stony Brook University in Gloria Viboud's lab where she studied Yersinia pseudotuberculosis pathogenesis. 

From 2006 to 2007, she worked as a lab tech in Susan Dorsey's lab at the University of Maryland School of Nursing.

 After earning her bachelor's degree, from 2006 to 2009, Corbett was a biological sciences trainer at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where she worked alongside Dr. Barney S. Graham. At the NIH, Corbett worked on the pathogenesis of respiratory syncytial virus as well as on a project focused on innovative vaccine platform advancement.

From 2009 to 2014, Corbett studied human antibody responses to dengue virus in Sri Lankan children under the supervision of Aravinda de Silva at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill). She studied how people produce antibodies in response to dengue fever, and how the genetics of dengue fever impact the severity of a disease.

From April to May 2014, as part of her research for her dissertation, Corbett worked as a visiting scholar at Genetech Research Institute in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

In October 2014, Corbett became a research fellow working as a viral immunologist at the NIH. Her research aims to uncover mechanisms of viral pathogenesis and host immunity. She specifically focuses on development of novel vaccines for coronaviridae. Her early research considered the development of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) vaccine antigens. During this time, she identified a simple way to make spike proteins that are stabilized in a conformation that renders them more immunogenic and manufacturable, in collaboration with researchers at Scripps Research Institute and Dartmouth College. 

Development of COVID-19 Vaccine

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Corbett started working on a vaccine to protect people from coronavirus disease. Recognizing that the virus was similar to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus, Corbett's team utilized previous knowledge of optimal coronavirus S proteins to tackle the novel coronavirus. Based on her previous research, Corbett's team, in collaboration with Jason McLellan and other investigators at The University of Texas at Austin, transplanted stabilizing mutations from SARS-CoV S protein into SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. She was part of the NIH team who helped solve the cryogenic electron microscopy (CryoEM) structure of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Her prior research suggested that messenger RNA (mRNA) encoding S protein could be used to excite the immune response to produce protective antibodies against coronavirus disease 2019.

To manufacture and test the COVID-19 vaccine Corbett's team partnered with Moderna, a biotechnology company, to rapidly enter animal studies. Subsequently, the vaccine entered Phase 1 clinical trial only 66 days after the virus sequence was released. The trial, to be completed in at least 45 people, is a dose escalation study in the form of two injections separated by 28 days.

 When asked about her involvement with the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, Corbett said,

"To be living in this moment where I have the opportunity

to work on something that has imminent global importance…

it’s just a surreal moment for me."