While Covid-19 pandemic raged on in 2021, the year saw medicine breakthroughs and innovations besides the release of two novel vaccines. From the first-ever drug approved to treat rare progeria to new insulin formulation that might make the therapy affordable to a malaria vaccine, which was years in the making, here are the seven biggest developments in the field of medicine.
Groundbreaking Vaccines for Covid-19
Spikevax by Moderna-NIAID and Comirnaty by Pfizer-BioNTech were authorized for emergency use to treat Covid-19 during 2021. As countries raced to save humankind from the rage of Covid-19, health experts and doctors began their journey to understand the characterization of SARS-COV-2 virus, how it affects the immune system and developed an injection to prevent it. The jabs are the world’s first so-called mRNA vaccines. If a vaccinated person comes into contact with SARS-CoV-2 virus, the antibodies reproduce and destroy the virus before it replicates out of control. The vaccines prevented hospitalization 100% of the time. The two-dose regimen is 94% effective in treating symptomatic people.
A New Treatment for Rare Progeria
FDA approved Zokinvy for treating Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, a rare disease that causes premature ageing. People diagnosed with this disease don’t live beyond 15 years of age. The disease occurs due to genetic mutation that changes protein in the nuclei of the carrier’s cell. The faulty protein (progerin) causes the cells to prematurely die. Zokinvy prevents buildup of the defective protein. The new medicine prolongs lifespan and also reduces heart and bone problems.
A Big Leap in Gene Therapy
Researchers successfully injected the CRISPR gene editing tool directly into a person’s body to treat a genetic liver disease. In the clinical trial of six persons in August 2021, doctors tried to fix a genetic defect that causes a rare liver condition called transthyretin amyloidosis. The gene-editing tool works towards correcting the defective cells in the liver. The treatment, which is still in its first phase of clinical trial, could pave way for healing a variety of genetic conditions.
Game-Changing Ebola Shot
Researchers at biotech company Regeneron have created monoclonal antibodies – lab-crafted molecules that mimic the work of the immune system’s natural defences to target illness. Inmazeb, which is a combination of three antibodies, target a protein on the surface of Ebola virus. In a clinical trial, 66.2% of the 154 people survived after receiving Inmazeb compared to 49% of the 153 people who didn’t. Although it is not a sureshot cure, FDA-approved Inmazeb is authorized for emergency use in treating many viral diseases.
First Vaccine for Malaria
Malaria kills about half a million people worldwide every year, according to some estimates. GlaxoSmithKline’s Mosquirix is effective against Plasmoduim falciparum, which is among the deadliest of the five parasites that causes malaria, and the most prevalent strain across Africa. While the inoculation is 50% effective against severe malaria, it is still one of the better ways to prevent the disease.
Most Affordable Insulin Ever
Semglee by Viatris is a biosimiliar insulin product, which has gained recognition by the FDA. It comes in 10 ml vials and 3 ml prefilled pens subcutaneously once daily, and is medically identical to Lantus, the name brand for insulin.
First-Ever Smart Implant
The first-ever knee implant successfully took place in October. The device can remotely monitor the patient and send information such as steps taken, walking speed, range of motion to the orthopedic surgeon to track recovery. The implant called Persona IQ uses basic material and technology found in pacemakers and provide abundant information about the patient’s body.