Scientists around the world are working to become more productive and adapt to the new normal. This means that they are looking at how they can grow their workforce, increase their focus time for experiments, and adapt to the next normal. To achieve their productivity goals, scientists must overcome barriers to scientific progress. These barriers include reproducibility, complex bioinformatics, and lack of correlation between investigative techniques. This article outlines some of the major barriers that scientists will face in 2022.
How Has Science Evolved in 2022?
Biodiversity in 2022
The global economy depends on nature, and its ecosystem services are valued at $125 trillion a year. These services range from waste decomposition to climate regulation and flood control. Losing a piece of this ecosystem means businesses are vulnerable to increased costs and risks. So, how can we save nature, and how can we make sure that it continues to provide ecosystem services? Here are some ideas to get us started. Read on to learn more!
The EU is working to protect biodiversity, and is committed to taking steps to reduce the damage that humans are doing to our environment. Their 2030 plan focuses on restoring degraded ecosystems, addressing key drivers of biodiversity loss, and advancing ambitious global biodiversity frameworks. The EU has partnered with bioland, the World Wide Fund for Nature, the Lake Constance Foundation, and the University of Nurtingen-Geislingen to develop and pilot the initiative in Germany.
The Biodiversity in 2022 program expands on the Dimensions of Biodiversity program by introducing two submission tracks. One track is limited to proposals in the United States; the other accepts proposals from around the world. The deadline for both tracks is the same. Biodiversity in 2022 is the most exciting time in the evolution of science. It is time to put biodiversity on the map. There is no better time to begin your journey to the future.
BIOFUND’s Board of Directors recently approved its annual budget and plan of activities for the year. This represents an increase of almost double the funding from the previous year. The money will be channeled to increased protection of nature in Conservation Areas, and 78% of BIOFUND programs will be funded by external partners. These include the European Union, World Bank, and UNDP. This is good news for those concerned about biodiversity conservation, and will help make the UK more competitive.
CRISPR gene editing
Despite the promise of CRISPR gene editing, the road to a successful therapy remains long and fraught with failure. A new crop of gene-editing startups is set to bring better methods to market by 2022. Intellia Therapeutics CEO John Leonard emphasized the importance of a CRISPR-based pipeline and platform for the treatment of diseases. The CEO’s remarks hint at the positive results of the NTLA-2001 study and the potential for gene editing.
While there are three clinical trials planned for CRISPR gene editing, two of them will be for-profit. Graphite Bio, for example, plans to present its first results of an experimental CRISPR treatment for sickle cell disease in 2022. Another gene therapy company, uniQure, is also planning to introduce results from its CRISPR-edited cell therapies in 2022. As for the timing of the FDA approval, the FDA will decide on the safety of CRISPR gene editing in 2022.
CRISPR has allowed scientists to develop animal models of diseases and cell cultures that mimic those conditions. This technology has many applications in human health, from creating drought-resistant crops to curing diseases like malaria. The CRISPR team has trained thousands of researchers in the technology and has shared over 40,000 CRISPR components with academic labs around the world. In addition to gene editing, CRISPR is also being considered for rapid diagnostic testing.
The first patient enrolled in the CRISPR clinical trial is Victoria Gray. The initial results from the study were published in December 2020, but follow-ups show that the treatment continues to be effective. Another trial involving CRISPR gene editing is the Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis clinical trial. Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis is a progressive genetic disease that causes blindness. The disease is caused by a mutation in the gene TTR.
Oral antiviral drugs targeting SARS-CoV-2
There are several potential antiviral agents in the pipeline. Some work against human proteins, which are involved in SARS-CoV-2 replication. For example, the cancer drug plitidepsin inhibits the production of eEF1A, a protein required by several viral pathogens. It has been shown to decrease SARS-CoV-2 replication in mice, and is currently in phase III clinical trials.
Molnupiravir is an investigational nucleoside analog that inhibits replication of SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19. Merck and Ridgeback’s “orange COVID-19 pill” is an opaque capsule, with a white ink corporate logo on the side. The drug is currently available in certain markets outside the U.S. under the brand name LAGEVRIO. Molnupiravir is also showing antiviral activity against a newly discovered variant of SARS-CoV-2, Omicron.
The EC50 values of two COVID-19 antivirals, nirmatrelvir, have been reported in a study published in Science Translational Medicine. Both compounds showed antiviral activity against both sars-cov-2 and COVID-19. Nirmatrelvir’s IC50 values are in the neighborhood of 22 to 225 nanomolar.
Early results for S-217622, an oral antiviral drug, showed that it reduced infectious SARS-CoV-2 virus by 90 percent. Moreover, the number of people with a positive viral titer after treatment decreased by 90% compared with placebo. Additionally, S-217622 shortened the infectivity shedding period by 1-2 days compared to placebo. Participants reported no or minimal signs and symptoms of Covid-19 infection daily.
An EUA for PAXLOVID, an investigational oral antiviral agent, has been granted by the FDA. It will be administered to patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 or those with a high risk of severe COVID. However, the FDA is still waiting for the results of the sequencing of the other drugs to see if they’ll help patients in this disease.
NASA-funded robotic landers
Despite the current economic climate, NASA has decided to fund seven lunar lander missions in the next few years, each costing around $1 billion. One lunar lander mission could cost that much, but two upcoming missions, led by Astrobotic Technology and Intuitive, will both carry additional equipment and payloads for NASA. The COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain issues have slowed America’s return to the moon.
While NASA has already awarded several contracts for robotic landers, the upcoming competition for remaining contracts will further drive the development of human-rated landers. Initially, SpaceX and Boeing competed for the Human Landing Systems contract, but lost out to Blue Origin, SpaceX and Dynetics. However, Boeing was a part of the Artemis program and has a VR3500 lander engine, which holds the record for the longest continuous test duration at the Marshall Space Flight Center.
While sending experiments to the moon is an amazing opportunity, the limited technological capabilities of the robotic landers will limit the type and scope of research possible. Future lunar missions may include the incorporation of non-NASA payloads, spurring the development of a commercial moon ecosystem. But regardless of payload, all landers will only be able to last one lunar day, which is equivalent to 14 Earth days. This short lifespan means that solar-powered or battery-powered landers won’t be functional during the frigid night temperatures.
In addition to the Lunar Lander Project, Firefly Aerospace also has plans to send experimental payloads to the Moon in 2023. They are also contracted to deliver eight payloads to the Lunar South Pole. The project is also expected to test the concept of sending mobile robot teams to supplement human missions on the moon. The goal is to send humans to the moon by 2024. If this works out, the robotic team will be able to land at the Moon’s surface and send back data to Earth.
The MethaneSAT satellite system is being developed by a subsidiary of the Environmental Defense Fund and will begin delivering data to Earth in early 2022. The satellites are equipped with spectrometers, which can detect methane at low concentrations. These data will then be used to create policy-relevant tools to address methane emissions. The first mission will launch two satellites at a cost of $88 million each.
The new MethaneSAT satellites will capture methane plumes as small as 5 kilograms per square kilometer. Those regions that have methane emissions under five kilograms per square kilometer have done an excellent job preventing typical emissions. With increased resolution and the ability to run movies backward, MethaneSAT will be able to track methane plumes across a region and see exactly how far they travel.
The MethaneSAT mission will focus on the oil and gas industry for the first few years. The oil and gas industry releases approximately 75 million metric tons of methane annually. Cutting this industry’s emissions by 45% by 2025 will result in the same climate benefit as shutting down one-third of all coal-fired power plants. MethaneSAT scientists have consulted with experts in academia and the aerospace industry to understand how the satellite will work and what to expect from the mission.
MethaneSAT satellites are expected to provide reliable and consistent information on methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. Methane satellites will measure emissions from oil and gas fields and other sectors, and can be used to confirm or verify emission estimates. This will save money, time, and energy, and allow for more effective mitigation of methane emissions. So, we should be very hopeful about MethaneSAT satellites and hope they will be launched in the near future.