The successful development of mRNA vaccines for Covid-19 is ‘transformational’ and opens the doors to new types of vaccines for other infectious diseases as well as cancer, according to Dr Özlem Türeci and Dr Uğur Şahin, the co-founders of Germany’s BioNTech.
The speed with which coronavirus vaccines have been developed surprised everyone and could transform public health into the future, says Dr Fergus Sweeney, head of the clinical studies and manufacturing taskforce at the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Here he gives us a glimpse at the work of the regulator over the past year as part of the fight against Covid-19.
The Sars-CoV-2 virus is changing in ways that are making it more transmissible, increasing the severity of disease it causes and allowing it to infect people who should have immunity. These variants are causing concern among global health experts, particularly as there are signs that some vaccines may be less effective against them.
A new antibody that can mount a double attack on the Sars-CoV-2 virus by binding to two different sites on the spike protein is starting human trials, leading to hopes of an antibody therapy that can maintain its effectiveness even against new variants of coronavirus.
Professor Johan Neyts, a virologist at the Rega Institute for Medical Research at KU Leuven in Belgium, leads a team searching for drugs that can help us in the fight against Covid-19. His laboratory is part of two projects that are screening millions of compounds to find some that block the coronavirus from replicating and so keep patients from falling sick. He told Horizon about why this search is so important and how it might keep us safe from future pandemics.
Two anti-inflammatory drugs – tocilizumab and sarilumab – as well as steroids, have been identified as potential life-saving coronavirus treatments thanks to a trial set up in the wake of the 2009 swine flu pandemic that mirrors the way that people receive multiple treatments while in intensive care.
A mysterious flu-like illness that caused loss of taste and smell in the late 19th century was probably caused by a coronavirus that still causes the ‘common cold’ in people today, according to Professor Marc Van Ranst at KU Leuven in Belgium, an expert on coronaviruses.
As the first coronavirus vaccines started to be rolled out at the end of a tumultuous 2020, UK officials unexpectedly endorsed stretching the gap between the first and second vaccine dose by up to three months – an approach also considered by other countries.
There was one science story that dominated 2020 and coronavirus is likely to remain a dominant theme in 2021. But from vaccine rollout to lessons for future pandemics and – that other big challenge that we’re facing – climate change, how will the year in science play out? We asked a selection of our interviewees about lessons from 2020 and what needs to happen in their fields in the coming year.
To diagnose and contain the spread of coronavirus, testing is critical. There are two types of Covid-19 tests — those that are designed to detect whether you have the infection now, or those crafted to check whether you have been previously infected by the virus — SARS-CoV-2 — that causes the disease. Like any other product these tests have varying degrees of accuracy and reliability, and can be used to achieve different aims.
Hyperloops could replace short-haul air travel.
Car manufacturers are rolling out higher levels of automation but public acceptance is lagging behind.
Dr Kate Rychert studies ocean plate structures.