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The 7 Most Important Scientific Breakthroughs of 2017

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The pace of technological change is accelerating – and every new year seems to bring a more incredible list of scientific breakthroughs than the last.

This time 2017 is no exception, and the year was filled with game-changing innovations that are on the cutting edge of science. These breakthroughs will surely alter how we think of the world, and they will likely also translate into future unknown technologies that will affect how our society operates.

Scientific Breakthroughs in 2017

Today’s infographic comes to us from Futurism, and it highlights the big scientific advancements that happened over the course of the year.

The 7 Most Important Scientific Breakthroughs of 2017

Key discoveries happened in the fields of gene editing, space travel, quantum communications, astronomy, and quantum physics.

Let’s take a deeper dive into these incredible scientific breakthroughs.

The Subatomic Level

At the subatomic particle level, there were a couple of noteworthy advances that will help us better understand the complex inner-workings of quantum mechanics.

New particles: Using the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a team of scientists discovered five new particles – all from a single analysis. These particles may give us a better understanding of the correlation between quarks and multi-quark states, as well as some clues about the earliest moments of the universe.

Quantum communications: The first unhackable video call happened between China and Vienna in September. Rather than using traditional cryptography, it relied on quantum key distribution (QKD) to protect the call. Using single photons in quantum superposition states is a way to raise the level of security so high, that it’s not even hackable by quantum computers.

The Final Frontier

Important progress was also made in space travel and astronomy:

Reusable rockets: Elon Musk and his SpaceX team launched a previously used Falcon 7 rocket booster. For humans to be able to do anything significant off the planet, cutting down the cost of commercial space travel is a crucial step in the right direction.

New Earth-like planets: In a remote star system called TRAPPIST-1, scientists discovered seven Earth-like exoplanets in the “goldilocks zone” – where life (as we know it) can exist.

Life Sciences

Lastly, the other three major discoveries fall under the category of life sciences:

Embryo gene editing: Researchers successfully edited a one-cell human embryo in Portland, Oregon. This could make it easier to cure heritable diseases or defective genes in the future.

Gene editing in body: A 44-year-old patient suffering from a rare disease, Hunter syndrome, had his genome successfully edited using CRISPR.

Artificial womb: An artificial womb successfully imitated the environment inside a uterus, housing a 23-week old lamb. Premature births are a leading cause of death for newborns.

With the speed of science and technological change continuing to accelerate, it should not be surprising to see an even more exciting list of breakthroughs in 2018.

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COVID-19

Every Vaccine and Treatment in Development for COVID-19, So Far

As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to skyrocket, healthcare researchers around the world are working to defeat the virus.

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covid-19 innovations pipeline-prev

Every Vaccine and Treatment in Development for COVID-19

As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to skyrocket, healthcare researchers around the world are working tirelessly to discover new life-saving medical innovations.

The projects these companies are working on can be organized into three distinct groups:

  1. Diagnostics: Quickly and effectively detecting the disease in the first place
  2. Treatments: Alleviating symptoms so people who have disease experience milder symptoms, and lowering the overall mortality rate
  3. Vaccines: Preventing transmission by making the population immune to COVID-19

Today’s graphics provide an in-depth look at who’s in the innovation race to defeat the virus, and they come to us courtesy of Artis Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on life sciences and tech investments.

Editor’s note: R&D is moving fast on COVID-19, and the situation is quite fluid. While today’s post is believed to be an accurate snapshot of all innovations and developments listed by WHO and FDA as of March 30, 2020, it is possible that more data will become available.

Knowledge is Power

Testing rates during this pandemic have been a point of contention. Without widespread testing, it has been tough to accurately track the spread of the virus, as well as pin down important metrics such as infectiousness and mortality rates. Inexpensive test kits that offer quick results will be key to curbing the outbreak.

Here are the companies and institutions developing new tests for COVID-19:

covid-19 diagnostics in development

The ultimate aim of companies like Abbott and BioFire Defense is to create a test that can produce accurate results in as little as a few minutes.

In the Trenches With Coronavirus

While the majority of people infected with COVID-19 only experience minor symptoms, the disease can cause severe issues in some cases – even resulting in death. Most of the forms of treatment being pursued fall into one of two categories:

  1. Treating respiratory symptoms – especially the inflammation that occurs in severe cases
  2. Antiviral growth – essentially stopping viruses from multiplying inside the human body

Here are the companies and institutions developing new treatment options for COVID-19:

covid-19 treatment in development

A wide range of players are in the race to develop treatments related to COVID-19. Pharma and healthcare companies are in the mix, as well as universities and institutes.

One surprising name on the list is Fujifilm. The Japanese company’s stock recently shot up on the news that Avigan, a decades-old flu drug developed through Fujifilm’s healthcare subsidiary, might be effective at helping coronavirus patients recover. The Japanese government’s stockpile of the drug is reportedly enough to treat two million people.

Vaccine

The progress that is perhaps being watched the closest by the general public is the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Creating a safe vaccine for a new illness is no easy feat. Thankfully, rapid progress is being made for a variety of reasons, including China’s efforts to sequence the genetic material of Sars-CoV-2 and to share that information with research groups around the world.

Another factor contributing to the unprecedented speed of development is the fact that coronaviruses were already on the radar of health science researchers. Both SARS and MERS were caused by coronaviruses, and even though vaccines were shelved once those outbreaks were contained, learnings can still be applied to defeating COVID-19.

covid-19 vaccines in development

One of the most promising leads on a COVID-19 vaccine is mRNA-1273. This vaccine, developed by Moderna Therapeutics, is being developed with extreme urgency, skipping straight into human trials before it was even tested in animals. If all goes well with the trials currently underway in Washington State, the company hopes to have an early version of the vaccine ready by fall 2020. The earliest versions of the vaccine would be made available to at-risk groups such as healthcare workers.

Further down the pipeline are 15 types of subunit vaccines. This method of vaccination uses a fragment of a pathogen, typically a surface protein, to trigger an immune response, teaching the body’s immune system how to fight off the disease without actually introducing live pathogens.

No Clear Finish Line

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet for solving this pandemic.

A likely scenario is that teams of researchers around the world will come up with solutions that will incrementally help stop the spread of the virus, mitigate symptoms for those infected, and help lower the overall death toll. As well, early solutions rushed to market will need to be refined over the coming months.

We can only hope that the hard lessons learned from fighting COVID-19 will help stop a future outbreak in its tracks before it becomes a pandemic. For now, those of us on the sideline can only do our best to flatten the curve.

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Cannabis

Visualizing the Huge Potential of Minor Cannabinoids

While the broader cannabis market is estimated to reach $45B by 2024, we’ve only scratched the surface in harnessing the potential of minor cannabinoids.

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The Huge Potential of Minor Cannabinoids

Hemp and marijuana are increasingly recognized for their exciting investment potential.

Due to their growing list of health benefits, the dominant conversation tends to center around the most abundant cannabinoids—cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). As a result, the cannabinoid market is estimated to reach almost $45 billion by 2024.

But CBD and THC are just two cannabinoids out of over a hundred that have been discovered to date. Today’s graphic from Trait Biosciences explores the hidden potential of the lesser-known minor cannabinoids, and illustrates how they fare in comparison to their major counterparts.

Cannabinoids 101

Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in both hemp and marijuana that mimic compounds found in the human endocannabinoid system. This system is made up of a network of receptors that are involved in physiological processes like mood and memory.

When cannabis is consumed, cannabinoids interact with these receptors and produce different effects depending on the receptors they bind to. Although over a hundred cannabinoids have been found, they are not all created equally. They are typically divided into two categories:

  • Major cannabinoids: More plentiful
  • Minor cannabinoids: Less plentiful

Regardless of whether a cannabinoid is categorized as major or minor, every cannabinoid starts out as a form of CBG.

CBG-A: The Mother of All Cannabinoids

Cannabigerolic acid, or as it is more commonly known, CBG-A, is the acid precursor to other cannabinoid acids such as THC-A, and CBD-A. When the acids are exposed to heat, or prolonged UV light, they convert to neutral cannabinoids such as CBD and THC.

While CBG is regarded as a minor cannabinoid, it boasts a wide range of benefits that are urging researchers and scientists to take notice:

  • Fights inflammation
  • Soothes pain
  • Reduces nausea
  • Slows the spread of cancer cells
  • Helps treat glaucoma

CBG could be hugely beneficial in treating a wide variety of diseases, but it’s just one of many minor cannabinoids that could potentially blow CBD and THC out of the water.

The Potential of Minor Cannabinoids

To date, there has been limited research into the power of minor cannabinoids. However, the results from preliminary research look incredibly promising.

CannabinoidTypeExamples of potential medical application
THC
Tetrahydrocannabinol
Major, psychoactive
Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, autoimmune diseases
CBD
Cannabidiol
Major, non-psychoactive
Epilepsy, schizophrenia
CBG-A
Cannabigerolic acid
Minor, non-psychoactive
Metabolic disorders, colon cancer
THC-A
Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid
Minor, non-psychoactive
Arthritis, neurodegenerative diseases, nausea, appetite loss
CBD-A
Cannabidiolic acid
Minor, non-psychoactive
Chemotherapy-induced nausea/vomiting (CINV), depression
CBC-A
Cannabichromene acid
Minor, non-psychoactive
Fungal diseases
CBG
Cannabigerol
Minor, non-psychoactive
Crohn’s disease, bowel disease, certain cancers
CBD-V
Cannabidivarin
Minor, non-psychoactive
Seizure prevention, Rett syndrome, Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD)
CBC-V
Cannabichromevarin
Minor, non-psychoactive
Osteoporosis, ALS, Muscular dystrophy
CBC
Cannabichromene
Minor, non-psychoactive
Could inhibit growth of cancer cells, osteoarthritis, neurological diseases
THC-V
Tetrahydrocannabivarin
Minor, psychoactive
Diabetes, anxiety, PTSD
Alzheimer’s disease
CBN
Cannabinol
Minor, psychoactive
Bacterial infections, ALS ,appetite stimulant

Note: Any potential medical treatment listed here stems from preclinical/animal testing only, and is simply intended to illustrate the potential application of each cannabinoid rather than a proven benefit.

Scientists also recently discovered two new cannabinoids—THC-P and CBD-P—with research showing that THC-P could potentially be 30 times more potent than THC.

The Future of Minor Cannabinoids

FDA-approved CBD drug Epidiolex has sparked a rising interest in minor cannabinoid trials.

In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has committed to providing funding to strengthen the evidence for minor cannabinoids and their pain relieving properties.

Cannabinoids could also add great value to cancer treatment-related side effects, however, more research is needed to turn potential into proof. With the availability of more robust evidence, the potential medical applications for minor cannabinoids could be much greater than we can imagine.

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