Twenty-four-year-old Olubukola Abiona is one of the front line researchers in the battle against COVID-19. Since 2017, Olubukola Abiona has been working as a post-baccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) scientist at the National Institutes of Health Vaccine Research Center in Bethesda, Maryland to develop vaccines for viruses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and currently, COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.
Very little is known about Abiona’s life history or background including where she was born or the names of her parents. For now she prefers to keep that information private. What is known is that Abiona already possessed a passion for science and medicinal research since both her parents are nurses and her brother is a pharmacy technician. Abiona attended Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Prince Georges County, Maryland, graduating in 2013. She credited the school’s science and technology program for piquing her interests in scientific research as well as a research internship at the University of Maryland, College Park. Abiona explained that she wanted to develop an understanding of the actual science behind what was presented in textbooks.
After high school Abiona enrolled at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and earned a degree there in four years as part of the University’s esteemed Meyerhoff Scholars Program. The Meyerhoff program seeks to diversify scholars who are interested in science, engineering, and related fields. Jerome Adams, the current United States Surgeon General is also a graduate of this program. Abiona also plans to become a first-generation doctoral student in the fields of virology and vaccinology.
Protein production and the way antibodies develop are Abiona’s top priorities as she and her research team strive to develop vaccines. Abiona’s lab work specifically tests how effective potent antibodies and proteins are in fighting off viruses. She works with a group of scientists led by Dr. Barney Graham and alongside Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, a viral immunologist and another Meyerhoff scholar. Abiona and her colleagues are the people who work behind the scenes to provide the most accurate data for the United States Coronavirus Taskforce established by President Donald Trump early in 2020.
Abiona has co-authored several publications concerning the coronavirus and remains optimistic about developing a vaccine. With reference to the recent pandemic, she stated “we are going through something that is difficult [but] this too shall pass.”