Franklin Institute recognizes scientist at forefront of developing the COVID-19 vaccine

Kizzmekia Corbett
President Joe Biden greets Kizzmekia Corbett, an immunologist with the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health during a visit at the Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory at the National Institutes of Health on Feb. 11, 2021, in Bethesda, Maryland. Photo credit Oliver Contreras/SIPA USA

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — For nearly 200 years, The Franklin Institute has recognized outstanding achievements in science and engineering. This year, it’s doing something a bit different by honoring those who have not only helped save lives in the present but also contributed to the future of science.

One of this year’s 11 laureates is Kizzmekia S. Corbett, who was at the forefront of developing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. She’s being recognized for her outstanding contributions to the field of viral immunology and vaccine development, including the mRNA-based vaccine to counteract the coronavirus.

Franklin Institute chief astronomer Derrick Pitts believes Corbett’s work is destined for the history books because it has opened doors and minds within the industry.

“She’s a woman, not to mention that she’s African-American,” he said. “All of those things are tremendous opportunities for us to celebrate how diversity is incredibly important in science, and that is fantastic.”

Corbett, 35, is being honored with the Benjamin Franklin NextGen Award.

“Franklin Awards typically recognize a body of work. Here, we are given the opportunity to celebrate someone who has made a significant contribution in the prime of youth,” Pitts added. “This is the first time in which The Franklin Institute has specifically created an award category for a much more useful scientist. So this is partially in recognition for the genius that is coming.”

Pitts said it’s no coincidence that many winners of The Franklin Insitute Awards go on to even greater success.

“More than half the people who have received Franklin medals have also gone on to receive Nobel medals. In other words, we know who the good people are.”

The awards ceremony will be held virtually on April 29.