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:
- Diagnostics: Quickly and effectively detecting the disease in the first place
- Treatments: Alleviating symptoms so people who have disease experience milder symptoms, and lowering the overall mortality rate
- 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:
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:
- Treating respiratory symptoms – especially the inflammation that occurs in severe cases
- Antiviral growth – essentially stopping viruses from multiplying inside the human body
Here are the companies and institutions developing new treatment options for COVID-19:
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.
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.
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.
A Visual Introduction to the Dwarf Planets in our Solar System
Since dwarf planets started being classified in 2005, nine have been recognized. Here we visually introduce the dwarf planets in our solar system.
Pluto and the Introduction of Dwarf Planets
Since its discovery in 1930, Pluto has been a bit of a puzzle.
For starters, not only is Pluto smaller than any other planet in the solar system, but it’s also smaller than Earth’s moon. It also has an extremely low gravitational pull at only 0.07 times the mass of the objects in its orbit, which is just a fraction of the Moon’s own strength.
At the same time, Pluto’s surface resembles that of terrestrial planets such as Mars, Venus or the Earth, yet its nearest neighbors are the gaseous Jovian planets such as Uranus or Neptune. In fact, Pluto’s orbit is so erratic that it led many scientists to initially believe that it originated elsewhere in space and the Sun’s gravity pulled it in.
These qualities have challenged the scientific view of Pluto’s status as a planet for years. It wasn’t until the discovery of Eris in 2005, one of many increasingly identified trans-Neptunian objects (objects beyond the planet Neptune), that the International Astronomical Union (IAU) defined criteria for classifying planets.
With Eris and other trans-Neptunian objects sharing similar characteristics with Pluto, the definition for dwarf planets was created, and Pluto got downgraded in 2006.
So what are dwarf planets, how do they differ from “true” planets and what are their characteristics?
The History of Dwarf Planets
A dwarf planet is a celestial body that almost meets the definition of a “true” planet. According to the IAU, which sets definitions for planetary science, a planet must:
- Orbit the Sun.
- Have enough mass to achieve hydrostatic equilibrium and assume a nearly round shape.
- Dominate its orbit and not share it with other objects.
Dwarf planets, along with not being moons or satellites, fail to clear the neighborhoods around their orbits. This is the primary reason why Pluto lost its status: because it shares part of its orbit with the Kuiper belt, a dense region of icy space bodies.
Based on this definition, the IAU has recognized five dwarf planets: Pluto, Eris, Makemake, Haumea, and Ceres. There are four more planetary objects*, namely Orcus, Sedna, Gonggong and Quaoar, that the majority of the scientific community recognize as dwarf planets.
Six more could be recognized in the coming years, and as many as 200 or more are hypothesized to exist in the Outer Solar System in the aforementioned Kuiper belt.
Ceres is the earliest known and smallest of the current category of dwarf planets. Previously classified as an asteroid in 1801, it was confirmed to be a dwarf planet in 2006. Ceres lies between Mars and Jupiter in the asteroid belt, and it is the only dwarf planet that orbits closest to Earth.
Here is a brief introduction to the most recognized dwarf planets:
|Name||Region of the|
|Orcus||Kuiper belt (plutino)||247||4.75||910||26%||1|
|Pluto||Kuiper belt (plutino)||248||4.74||2377||68%||5|
|Haumea||Kuiper belt (12:7)||285||4.53||1560||≈ 45%||2|
|Quaoar||Kuiper belt (cubewano)||289||4.51||1110||32%||1|
|Makemake||Kuiper belt (cubewano)||306||4.41||1430||41%||1|
|Gonggong||Scattered disc (10:3)||554||3.63||1230||35%||1|
Interesting Facts about Dwarf Planets
Here are a few interesting facts about the dwarf planets discovered in our solar system:
Ceres loses 6kg of its mass in steam every second
The Herschel Space Telescope observed plumes of water vapor shooting up from Ceres’ surface; this was the first definitive observation of water vapor in the asteroid belt. This happens when portions of Ceres’ icy surface warm up and turn into steam.
A day on Haumea lasts 3.9 hours
Haumea has a unique appearance due to its rotation, which is so rapid that it compresses the planet into an egg-like shape. Its rotational speed and collisional origin also make Haumea one of the densest dwarf planets discovered to date.
Makemake was named three years after its discovery in 2005
Makemake’s discovery close to Easter influenced both its name and nickname. Before being named after the creator of humanity and god of fertility in the mythos of the Rapa Nui (the native people of Easter Island), Makemake was nicknamed “Easter bunny” by its discoverer Mike Brown.
Eris was once considered for the position of the 10th planet
Eris is the most massive dwarf planet in the solar system, exceeding Pluto’s mass by 28%. As such, it was a serious contender to become the tenth planet but failed to meet the criteria set out by the IAU.
Pluto is one-third ice
The planet’s composition makes up two-thirds rock and one-third ice, mostly a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide. One day on Pluto is 153.6 hours, approximately 6.4 Earth days, making it one of the slowest rotating dwarf planets.
Exploratory Missions and New Planets on the Horizon
With newer technology rapidly available to the scientific community and new exploratory missions getting more data and information about trans-Neptunian objects, our understanding of dwarf planets will increase.
Nestled in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, the asteroid Hygiea remains a controversy. Hygiea is the fourth largest object in the asteroid belt behind Ceres, Vesta, and Pallas and ticks all the boxes necessary to be classified as a dwarf planet.
So what’s holding back Hygiea’s confirmation as a dwarf planet? The criterion for being massive enough to form a spherical shape is in contention; it remains unclear if its roundness results from collision/impact disruption or its mass/gravity.
Along with Hygiea, other exciting dwarf planets could be soon discovered. Here is a quick rundown of some serious contenders:
Discovered in 2004, it is a trans-Neptunian object in the Kuiper belt, approximately 850 kilometers in diameter. As of 2018, it is located about 44.8 astronomical units from the Sun. Salacia’s status is in contention because its planetary density is arguable. It is uncertain if it can exist in hydrostatic equilibrium.
(307261) 2002 MS4
With an estimated diameter of 934±47 kilometers, 2002 MS4 is comparable in size to Ceres. Researchers need more data to determine whether 2002 MS4 is a dwarf planet or not.
(55565) 2002 AW197
Discovered at the Palomar Observatory in 2002, it has a rotation period of 8.8 hours, a moderately red color (similar to Quaoar) and no apparent planetary geology. Its low albedo has made it difficult to determine whether or not it is a dwarf planet.
Varda takes its name after the queen of the Valar, creator of the stars, one of the most powerful servants of almighty Eru Iluvatar in J. R. R. Tolkien’s fictional mythology. Varda’s status as a dwarf planet is uncertain because its size and albedo suggest it might not be a fully solid body.
(532037) 2013 FY27
This space object has a surface diameter of about 740 kilometers. It orbits the Sun once every 449 years. Researchers need more data on the planet’s mass and density to determine if it is a dwarf planet or not.
(208996) 2003 AZ84
It is approximately 940 kilometers across its longest axis, as it has an elongated shape. This shape is presumably due to its rapid rotation rate of 6.71 hours, similar to that of other dwarf planets like Haumea. Like Varda, it remains unknown if this object has compressed into a fully solid body and thus remains contentious amongst astronomers regarding its planetary status.
*Note: The IAU officially recognizes five dwarf planets. We include four additional dwarf planets widely acknowledged by members of the scientific community, especially amongst leading planetary researchers like Gonzalo Tancredi, Michael Brown, and William Grundy. There are many more potential dwarf planets not listed here that remain under investigation.
Comparing the Size of The World’s Rockets, Past and Present
This infographic sizes up different rockets used to explore space, from the USSR’s Soyuz to the SpaceX Starship.
The Size of The World’s Rockets, Past and Present
The SpaceX Starship might be the next rocket to take humans to the moon, but it won’t be the first, and likely not the last.
Starting in the mid-20th century, humanity has explored space faster than ever before. We’ve launched satellites, telescopes, space stations, and spacecrafts, all strapped to rocket-propelled launch vehicles that helped them breach our atmosphere.
This infographic from designer Tyler Skarbek stacks up the many different rockets of the world side-by-side, showing which country designed them, what years they were used, and what they (could) accomplish.
How Do The World’s Rockets Stack Up?
Before they were used for space travel, rockets were produced and developed to be used as ballistic missiles.
The first rocket to officially reach space—defined by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale as crossing the Kármán line at 100 kilometers (62 miles) above Earth’s mean sea level—was the German-produced V-2 rocket in 1944.
But after World War II, V-2 production fell into the hands of the U.S., the Soviet Union (USSR), and the UK.
Over the next few decades and the unfolding of the Cold War, what started as a nuclear arms race of superior ballistic missiles turned into the Space Race. Both the U.S. and the USSR tried to be the first to achieve and master spaceflight, driving production of many new and different rockets.
|Origin Country||Rocket||Years Active||Payload (Range)||Success/Failure|
|U.S.||Vanguard||1957–1959||9 kg (LEO)||3/8|
|USSR||Sputnik||1957–1964||1,322 kg (LEO)||6/1|
|U.S.||Juno 1||1958–1958||11 kg (LEO)||3/3|
|U.S.||Juno II||1958–1961||41 kg (LEO)||4/6|
|USSR||Vostok||1958–1991||4,725 kg (LEO)||106/3|
|U.S.||Redstone||1960–1961||1,800 kg (Suborbital)||5/1|
|U.S.||Atlas LV-3B||1960–1963||1,360 kg (LEO)||7/2|
|U.S.||Atlas-Agena||1960–1978||1,000 kg (LEO)||93/16|
|U.S.||Scout||1961–1994||150 kg (LEO)||121/27|
|USSR||Voskhod||1963–1976||5,900 kg (LEO)||281/14|
|U.S.||Titan II||1964–1966||3,100 kg (LEO)||12/0|
|Europe (ELDO)||Europa||1964–1971||360 kg (GTO)||4/7|
|France||Diamant||1965–1975||160 kg (LEO)||9/3|
|U.S.||Atlas E/F||1965–2001||820 kg (LEO)||56/9|
|USSR||Soyuz||1965–Present||7,100 kg (LEO)||1263/44|
|USSR||Proton||1965–Present||23,700 kg (LEO)||375/48|
|U.S.||Saturn 1B||1966–1975||21,000 kg (LEO)||9/0|
|U.S.||Saturn V||1967–1973||48,600 kg (TLI)||13/0|
|USSR||Kosmos-3M||1967–2010||1,500 kg (LEO)||424/20|
|UK||Black Arrow||1969–1971||135 kg (LEO)||2/2|
|U.S.||Titan 23B||1969–1971||3,300 kg (LEO)||32/1|
|USSR||N1||1969–1972||23,500 kg (TLI)||0/4|
|Japan||N-1||1975–1982||1,200 kg (LEO)||6/1|
|Europe (ESA)||Ariane 1||1976–1986||1,400 kg (LEO)||9/2|
|USSR||Tsyklon-3||1977–2009||4,100 kg (LEO)||114/8|
|U.S.||STS||1981–2011||24,400 kg (LEO)||133/2|
|USSR||Zenit||1985–Present||13,740 kg (LEO)||71/13|
|Japan||H-I||1986–1992||3,200 kg (LEO)||9/0|
|USSR||Energia||1987–1988||88,000 kg (LEO)||2/0|
|Israel||Shavit||1988–2016||800 kg (LEO)||8/2|
|U.S.||Titan IV||1989–2005||17,000 kg (LEO)||35/4|
|U.S.||Delta II||1989–2018||6,100 kg (LEO)||155/2|
|Europe (ESA)||Ariane 4||1990–2003||7,600 kg (LEO)||113/3|
|U.S.||Pegasus||1990–Present||443 kg (LEO)||39/5|
|Russia||Rokot||1990–Present||1,950 kg (LEO)||31/3|
|U.S.||Atlas II||1991–2004||6,580 kg (LEO)||63/0|
|China||Long March 2D||1992–Present||3,500 kg (LEO)||44/1|
|India||PSLV||1993–Present||3,800 kg (LEO)||47/3|
|Japan||H-IIA||1994–2018||15,000 kg (LEO)||40/1|
|Europe (ESA)||Ariane 5||1996–Present||10,865 kg (GTO)||104/5|
|Brazil||VLS-1||1997–2003||380 kg (LEO)||0/2|
|USSR||Dnepr-1||1999–2015||4,500 kg (LEO)||21/1|
|U.S.||Atlas III||2000–2005||8,640 kg (LEO)||6/0|
|Japan||M-V||2000–2006||1,800 kg (LEO)||6/1|
|U.S.||Minotaur 1||2000–2013||580 kg (LEO)||11/0|
|India||GSLV MK1||2001–2016||5,000 kg (LEO)||6/5|
|U.S.||Atlas V 400||2002–Present||15,260 kg (LEO)||54/1|
|U.S.||Delta IV Medium||2003–Present||9,420 kg (LEO)||20/0|
|U.S.||Delta IV Heavy||2004–Present||28,790 kg (LEO)||12/1|
|U.S.||Falcon 1||2006–2009||180 kg (LEO)||2/3|
|China||Long March 4C||2006–Present||4,200 kg (LEO)||26/2|
|U.S.||Atlas V 500||2006–Present||18,850 kg (LEO)||27/0|
|Iran||Safir||2008–Present||65 kg (LEO)||4/1|
|U.S.||Minotaur IV||2010–Present||1,735 kg (LEO)||6/0|
|Europe (ESA)||Vega||2012–Present||1,450 kg (SSO)||14/1|
|U.S.||Minotaur V||2013–Present||532 kg (GTO)||1/0|
|Japan||Epsilon||2013–Present||1,500 kg (LEO)||4/0|
|U.S.||Antares||2013–Present||8,000 kg (LEO)||11/1|
|U.S.||Falcon 9 FT||2013–Present||22,800 kg (LEO)||96/0|
|India||GSLV MK3||2014–Present||4,000 kg (GTO)||4/0|
|Russia||Angara 5||2014–Present||13,450 kg (LEO)||3/0|
|New Zealand||Electron||2017–Present||225 kg (SSO)||17/2|
|U.S.||Falcon 9 Heavy||2018–Present||54,400 kg (LEO)||3/0|
|U.S.||Starship||2021–Present||100,000 kg (LEO)||0/0|
|U.S.||SLS||2021–Present||36,740 kg (TLI)||0/0|
As the Space Race wound down, the U.S. proved to be the biggest producer of different rockets. The eventual dissolution of the USSR in 1991 transferred production of Soviet rockets to Russia or Ukraine. Then later, both Europe (through the European Space Agency) and Japan ramped up rocket production as well.
More recently, new countries have since joined the race, including China, Iran, and India. Though the above infographic shows many different families of rockets, it doesn’t include all, including China’s Kuaizhou rocket and Iran’s Zuljanah and Qased rockets.
Rocket Range Explained and Continued Space Aspirations
Designing a rocket that can reach far into space while carrying a heavy payload—the objects or entities being carried by a vehicle—is extremely difficult and precise. It’s not called rocket science for nothing.
When rockets are designed, they are are created with one specific range in mind that takes into account the fuel needed to travel and velocity achievable. Alternatively, they have different payload ratings depending on what’s achievable and reliable based on the target range.
- Suborbital: Reaches outer space, but its trajectory intersects the atmosphere and comes back down. It won’t be able to complete an orbital revolution or reach escape velocity.
- LEO (Low Earth orbit): Reaches altitude of up to ~2,000 km (1242.74 miles) and orbits the Earth at an orbital period of 128 minutes or less (or 11.25 orbits per day).
- SSO (Sun-synchronous orbit): Reaches around 600–800 km above Earth in altitude but orbits at an inclination of ~98°, or nearly from pole to pole, in order to keep consistent solar time.
- GTO (Geosynchronous transfer orbit): Launches into a highly elliptical orbit which gets as close in altitude as LEO and as far away as 35,786 km (22,236 miles) above sea level.
- TLI (Trans-lunar injection): Launches on a trajectory (or accelerates from Earth orbit) to reach the Moon, an average distance of 384,400 km (238,900 miles) from Earth.
But there are other ranges and orbits in the eyes of potential spacefarers. Mars for example, a lofty target in the eyes of SpaceX and billionaire founder Elon Musk, is between about 54 and 103 million km (34 and 64 million miles) from Earth at its closest approach.
With space exploration becoming more common, and lucrative enough to warrant billion-dollar lawsuits over contract awards, how far will future rockets go?
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