Perhaps the biggest breakthrough of the pandemic was the application of mRNA technology for use in vaccines such as the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine. Research into other applications for the game-changing mRNA technology has been jump-started by the COVID-19 vaccine's success. Now mRNA is being explored for use in a wide range of other health conditions. According to the website of the US National Institute of Health, which keeps track of worldwide research, there are 98 clinical trials of mRNA therapies currently in progress. In the pipeline – everything from personalized cancer vaccines to cures for life-threatening conditions that have defied researchers for decades, such as cystic fibrosis.
Vaccines are just one of many health-related issues fast-tracked by COVID-19 research. We’re about to see major advancements in indoor ventilation and building design. When researchers found that the coronavirus spreads through aerosol droplets, it brought attention to a long-neglected issue: indoor air quality. (At Taikoo Place, we are committed to healthy air, and that’s why we’ve placed monitors to check air quality in our buildings.)
Better building ventilation and air circulation design is going to be crucial in stopping potential “super spreader” events. In a recent issue of The Hill, Professor Joseph Allen, director of the healthy buildings program at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health observed that better air quality has a positive health impact that extends beyond protection from COVID-19. “Good indoor air quality also improves employee cognitive function, which flows directly to the bottom line performance of businesses,” he writes.
Medical testing is another area where the pandemic has pushed big changes. Tests are becoming easier, faster, cheaper, and accessible. We can expect tests to be a feature of the post-pandemic health landscape. Johns Hopkins researchers have designed a rapid, affordable blood test that can be used at an airport gate or a stadium to confirm within minutes if someone is vaccinated for COVID-19. New advances in testing aren’t limited to COVID-19, or even to the world of infectious diseases. Araclon Biotech, a Grifols Group company, is now working on a new blood test that will identify early stage Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s exciting to imagine the changes that these medical and technical advances will make in our lives. But the most positive impact that the pandemic may leave us with is not a medicine, but a belief and commitment: that vaccines and health technology must be accessible to all, not just to people in affluent countries.