2022 Albert B. Sabin Gold Medal Ceremony

Dr. Kathrin Jansen and Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett were honored with the 2022 Albert B. Sabin Awards for their extraordinary contributions to vaccine research.

Kathrin JansenDR. KATHRIN JANSEN, PHD

2022 GOLD MEDAL AWARDEE

Kathrin U. Jansen was the Senior Vice President and Head of Vaccine Research and Development (VRD) at Pfizer Inc, and a member of Pfizer’s Worldwide Research, Development and Medical leadership team, until she retired in August 2022. She has more than 30 years of experience in successful vaccine R&D innovation, mainly in the pharmaceutical industry (Pfizer, Merck, Wyeth) but also in a vaccine biotech company (Vaxgen). Her leadership in bringing multiple disparate vaccines to licensure and in accelerating their global use has been remarkable and her research has tangibly impacted both life expectancy as well as the quality of life for many around the world.  Her R&D portfolio of vaccines to prevent unmet human disease burdens includes ones against COVID-19 variants, additional Streptococcus pneumoniae serotypes, Clostridium difficile, RSV, Group B Streptococcus, and Lyme disease.

While at Pfizer, she collaborated with BioNTech, leading a 650-person team in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine that went on to receive the first U.S. Food and Drug Administration Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) – barely 11 months after the SARS-CoV-2’s genetic sequence was released. This was the first EUA ever for a mRNA platform. More than 3.5 billion doses of that vaccine, which has since gotten full FDA approval, have been shipped around the world.

In previous roles at Merck and Wyeth, Jansen, led the development of two blockbuster vaccines against human papilloma virus (HPV) and pneumococcus. The HPV vaccine (Gardasil) was the world’s first cervical cancer vaccine and has now been adopted into the national routine immunization schedules of 117 countries around the world. The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (Prevnar-13) targeting 13 bacterial strains was one of the most complicated vaccines ever developed and today protects babies and older adults from invasive pneumococcal disease which can sometimes be fatal.

Jansen has authored 223 publications and is a Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) Scientific Advisory Committee member.

Dr. Jansen received her doctoral degree in microbiology, biochemistry & genetics from Phillips Universitaet, Marburg, Germany, in 1984. Following completion of her formal training, she continued her postdoctoral training at Cornell University.


Kizzmekia CorbettKIZZMEKIA CORBETT, PHD

2022 RISING STAR AWARDEE

Kizzmekia Corbett is currently Assistant Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. A viral immunologist by training, Dr. Corbett uses her expertise to propel novel vaccine development for pandemic preparedness.

She began her immunology career in 2014 as a post-doctoral scientist at the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health. There, she began working on novel coronavirus vaccines. When the pandemic began, Dr. Corbett shifted focus toward developing a COVID-19 vaccine, using her previous research targeting other novel coronaviruses. She was part of the NIH team that advanced understanding of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein structure, which proved valuable in efforts to design a COVID-19 vaccine. Her prior research had suggested that the messenger RNA (mRNA) encoding S protein could be used to stimulate an immune response and produce protective antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. The concept, incorporated in mRNA-1273, was designed by Dr. Corbett’s team from COVID-19 viral sequence data and rapidly deployed to industry partner, Moderna, Inc., for a U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA)-approved Phase 1 clinical trial. The study testing the vaccine was unprecedented in how quickly it began — just 66 days from the viral sequence release. Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine was later authorized for emergency use by the FDA and later, received full regulatory approval.

Apart from universal coronavirus vaccine concepts and novel therapeutic antibodies, Dr. Corbett’s research portfolio also includes dengue virus, respiratory syncytial virus, and influenza virus. She heads Harvard’s new Coronaviruses & Other Relevant Emerging Infectious Diseases (CoreID) lab. Her team studies and seeks to understand the interface between hosts’ immune systems and viruses that cause respiratory disease, with the goal of informing the development of novel and potentially universal vaccines. Along with her research activities, Corbett is an avid advocator of STEM education and vaccine awareness in the community. As a Black woman scientist, Corbett has used her platform to address vaccine hesitancy, or as she has termed it, “vaccine inquisitiveness,” especially in the Black community. She has sought to reassure skeptics of its safety and efficacy by speaking virtually at churches and various community organizations.