Pandemics have been a thorn in the side of humanity for thousands of years.
But despite COVID-19 being the latest iteration in these deadly infectious diseases to strike, we are experiencing it in a very different public health context than past pandemics throughout history.
A New Era of Medicine
Since the onset of the 1918 influenza pandemic, humans have seen a monumental and undeniable leap forward in the health sciences.
Advancements in everything from sanitation to pharmacology have spread globally, resulting in a health landscape that is almost unrecognizable from those during past disease outbreaks.
While it’s not possible to demonstrate every life-saving advancement in medical knowledge in just one chart, the rise of life expectancy at birth can be a useful proxy. In just 65 years, modern medicine has propelled countries around the world to see a rapid surge in this crucial measure:
The above animation, which comes to us from Reddit user u/karthikvcp, provides a helpful reminder of just how much has changed in public health over recent decades.
And although countries seem to move up following a linear line, here’s another look at this surge in global life expectancy on a much longer timeline — since the dawn of human civilization:
Yes, for most of human history, it’s been estimated that global life expectancy at birth has bounced between 20 and 30 years.
Beginning approximately in the year 1820, global life expectancy started its exponential ascent, seeing its most impressive gains after 1950 as modern sanitation and medical advancements began to trickle down to developing nations.
Life Expectancy: Interactive Version
While the 13-second animation is a fast summation of the revolution that has occurred in public health, here’s an interactive version from Our World in Data that plots the exact same data:
Still at the Mercy of Nature
Although our understandings of epidemiology and disease treatment are better than they’ve been during previous pandemics, other aspects of modern society have still compounded to make COVID-19 a complex challenge for public health officials.
Population density, frequency of travel, and a modern tendency to gather in large groups are all factors that have contributed to an initial spread of the virus that was faster and more widespread than anything humanity has ever seen.
And so, even with our increased level of medical sophistication, it seems we are still at the mercy of Mother Nature — just in a very different set of circumstances than in pandemics past.
Innovation in Virology: Vaccines and Antivirals
Vaccine development has grown six-fold since 1995. Learn how virology, the study of viruses, is driving innovation in the healthcare industry.
Innovation in Virology: Vaccines and Antivirals
The COVID-19 pandemic affected millions of people worldwide and brought renewed focus to virology—the study of viruses.
However, impact made by viruses extends far beyond the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. There are 24 viruses that have each infected more than 80 million people globally, from hepatitis to influenza.
In this graphic from MSCI, we uncover innovation in vaccines and antivirals and the related market opportunities.
What is a Virus?
A virus is a microscopic infectious agent that replicates within living cells. It may cause disease in its host. New viruses can emerge at any time as a result of mutation, or when viruses transfer from animals to humans.
Through virology, scientists are continuously finding new ways to fight against infectious diseases. Two main types of anti-infectives are available: vaccines and antivirals.
Rapid Innovation in Vaccines
Vaccines are substances designed to prevent people from getting infected with a disease or experiencing serious symptoms.
The number of vaccines has increased dramatically over the last three decades. From 2020 to 2021 alone, the number of approved vaccines or clinical candidates jumped by 13%.
|Year||Vaccines Approved or in Development|
Data is a snapshot in time and reflects all vaccines ever approved (and not taken off the market) plus all vaccines in development as of the noted year (for which a trial has not been canceled).
Not only that, it’s possible to have shorter approval timelines. COVID-19 vaccines were approved within 11 months, much more quickly than the 2000-2020 average of 10 years.
In the time between an outbreak and vaccine development, antivirals can play a vital role.
Antivirals: The Second Line of Defense in Virology
Antivirals are drugs that slow or prevent the growth of a virus and treat disease symptoms. They are especially important tools for diseases that do not have an associated vaccine.
In 2021, there were nearly six times as many approved antivirals as there were in 1995. Not only that, antiviral uses have grown to include the potential prevention and treatment of HIV, COVID-19, and a number of other diseases.
in the U.S.
The potential prevention (prophylaxis) and treatment of the same virus are counted as separate uses. Data is cumulative and reflects all antivirals ever approved (and not taken off the market) and all reasons ever approved for using antivirals (that have not been rescinded).
Innovation in virology—and the potential for future developments—is leading to a growing industry.
Expanding Market Opportunities
With opportunities growing and approval times shortening, more companies are entering the market.
|Year||Companies Developing Vaccines/Antivirals|
Data is a snapshot in time and reflects all companies developing vaccines or antivirals as of the noted year. If a company stops being active in the space or ceases to exist, they are removed from the total.
As they work to develop new vaccines and antivirals, companies are conducting clinical trials for many diseases beyond COVID-19 such as respiratory infections and sepsis.
Virology is leading to a number of groundbreaking technologies and therapies, transforming healthcare along the way.
Explore the MSCI Virology Index now.
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