The Top 3 Medical Advancements of 2021

When the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2021, nobody knew what the year would bring. With the world still on pause from COVID-19, the healthcare industry hit fast-forward and never looked back. The past year brought mass amounts of innovation, all deserving recognition and applause, and that’s what we’re here to do.  

Continue reading to uncover our Top 3 Medical Advancements of 2021…

1. mRNA Vaccine Technology

It’s no surprise that the mRNA vaccine developed for the Novel Coronavirus changed the ways of medicine in 2021 and for years to come. While mRNA vaccines have only recently reached the market, the mRNA vaccination type has been studied for decades – although the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine is the first not to contain the live virus during the injection. 

COVID-19 Antibodies

mRNA technology teaches the cells in our body to make a protein used by a virus, setting off an immune response in our body to fend off the actual virus. But why is this important? Research suggests that mRNA can create a range of vaccines and treatments for viruses at a fraction of the current time and cost. The urgency to bring a COVID-19 vaccine to market proved the effectiveness of mRNA as a whole.

Not only did mRNA impact the science of vaccines, but it also changed social standards of research and development. The “we need it now” mentality forced scientists to collaborate and share research amongst each other to get the job done quickly. Now, more than ever, researchers are sharing their findings through conference calls, email chains, and web-postings – changing the culture of science through democratization.

With the effectiveness proven, the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine became a trailblazer for many infectious disease treatments. In the next five years, we could see mRNA focus switch to other severe viruses such as Malaria, Cystic Fibrosis, or even Cancer. Technology is on course to change the lives of millions.

2. Early Cancer Detection

While COVID-19 advancements were at the forefront of everyone’s minds, an early cancer detection test was being developed in the background. The Galleri Test is a simple blood sample that screens DNA for more than 50 types of cancers. As a Multi-Cancer Early Detection (MCED) test, it observes the DNA in the body to identify if any of them come from cancer cells. It can then pinpoint the place of origin with high accuracy if a cancer signal is found.

Results discovered from a study with 6,000 individuals ages 50+ showed that the test helped 29 people receive diagnoses. What does this mean for cancer patients? Well, early multi-detection enables proactivity in finding and receiving treatment which in turn increases overall survival rates. 71% of cancer deaths are caused by cancer types not commonly screened. The Galleri Tests can remove the limit on treatment options because patients are aware of their cancer at a much earlier stage.

On a fast-track for FDA approval, experts are saying MCED tests could revolutionize cancer screening. With point-of-care testing in the US, the potential to reduce late-stage cancer diagnoses by two-thirds exists. With this advancement, there is an opportunity to reduce the human and economic tolls cancer has on the world.

3. Antiviral Oral Pills

As a recent advancement, the antiviral pill will change how COVID-19 and many other flu-related diseases get treated. Currently, Molnupiravir (Merck) and Paxlovid (Pfizer) pills are ready to hit the market and are designed to stop the virus from replicating. Molnupiravir inserts errors or mutations which fool the enzyme responsible for the virus’ RNA replication – over time, shutting down the virus’ ability to survive. On the other hand, Paxlovid uses inhibitors that block enzymes that turn non-functional viral proteins into functioning ones. The drug plays the same role as those used to treat HIV.

The pills can be administered at any stage of infection but are most successful early on. Treatment in a pill form purchased in a pharmacy increases the availability of treatment for Coronavirus and any future viral infections exponentially. Its technology helps treat and stop the spread of the virus, reducing hospitalization rates, therefore taking pressure off healthcare workers and institutions.

These antiviral pills and their adaptability provide value to places like Africa, where the population has low vaccination rates due to minimal resources and drug availability. As of late, both drugs have royalty-free licenses, permitting manufacturers to produce generic versions for 100+ low to middle-income countries. Production could cost as little as $20 compared to the monster $700 fee in the United States. Antiviral oral pills are tools to treat the inevitable infections that continue to impact vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals worldwide.

The mRNA vaccine technology, early cancer detection tests, and antiviral oral pills are just a few of many of the ground-breaking advancements medicine saw during the year 2021. Innovation is never-ending, and we cannot wait to see what 2022 brings.