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Updates & Lessons for a Post-pandemic World – Genomic Enterprise Blog

Updates & Lessons for a Post-pandemic World

As I write this blog post there has been a lot of updates related to the coronavirus pandemic in the world. We are approaching the end of 2020 and there is currently a second and third waves of coronavirus infections in Europe and the United States, respectively. In the United States the number of daily confirmed cases are reaching the 200,000 mark and in Europe several countries are locking down and imposing restrictions again. The testing of the virus is still messy with misinformation and lots of false positives and false negatives. Doctors and healthcare practitioners are struggling to understand (or don’t have time) which is the best applicable test for each phase of the viral infection. For example, if the person is in the peak of the viral infection and did not develop antibodies against the virus yet, a serological rapid test will not detect the virus (false negative). If the PCR (“gold standard” test) is done after the infection phase and the body has cleared the virus, we will also see a false negative. Very confusing indeed. Regarding treatments for the infected people, I believe the healthcare systems are evolving but there is no “global protocol” to be followed by healthcare practitioners in all the countries. Thus, what we see is a trial and error, use of drugs that are not approved for viral infections, use of antibiotics in the wrong phase of the infection. Bottom line: It is still a big mess. Regarding the vaccines, in the last week we had several good news of vaccines from big pharma companies such as Pfizer, CoronaVac and the Russian Sputnik V having good efficacy (above 90%), Today I just read that Moderna Therapeutics released a statement in the media reaching almost 95% efficacy (check the NYTimes Vaccine Tracker and some other news here). I hope until the first quarter of 2021 we will have more good news for the vaccine research. However, the problems after the approvals will be the logistics to deliver it to people in poor countries (we already know that vaccines based in RNA are unstable and need very low temperatures to transport). Prices, country policies to distribute, who will get it first are also open to discussion. Well, there are several lessons we have been learning “on the go” with this pandemic. When I think in a post-pandemic world, I see a lot of people affected mentally mainly because of the restrictions, a generation of kids that will be living with fear, confused and probably still using masks (this is not going away soon). I think governments in the world need to join forces to overcome another pandemic if it comes; the response to this one was a disaster in my perspective (and from a lot of other people). With all the technological innovations and scientific accomplishments we have in the year 2020, we will probably see  around 2 million people dying (or even more) of the coronavirus globally with at least 100 million+ infected (unfortunately I have been reading a lot of reports of recovered people with long-term problems in the brain, heart, chronic fatigue, weird syndromes that will take a while to understand). Societies and political leaders will need to join forces in a world that is so divided right now. I am not talking about rich and poor, I am talking about us, humans, the human race as a whole. The world will never be the same after 2020. A “brave” new world will surface with more compassion, empathy and hope – I am trying to be an optimist. This pandemic affected everyone (of course differently) from Hollywood stars to people living in slums, from billionaires to middle class people. The world of sports such as NBA, MLB, soccer, car racing (I am a fan of Formula 1 and Indy Car Racing) were all affected in some way. Live TV shows were affected. All businesses were somehow negatively affected (exceptions are technologies such as videocalls, and retail with delivery such as the tech company Amazon, etc). The world economy is broken, a lot of people unemployed, kids having virtual classes and other changes that will need some years to go back to “normal”. And what this “normal” will be? I do not have the answer yet, but I hope next year will be better than 2020.

Published by Fabricio Costa

Dr. Costa has obtained his Ph.D. in the worldwide renowned Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research. He has completed his training for two years at the Massachusetts General Hospital, affiliated with Harvard University in Boston, MA. He works now as a research scientist at Children’s Memorial Research Center and Northwestern University in Chicago, IL. He has published several peer-reviewed articles in the cancer research, genomics and epigenomics fields and has worked as a consultant for newspapers in the biotech sector. He has also given interviews to the scientific journal "Nature Biotechnology" and to the british magazine "The Economist" about his work. Dr Costa was also a reviewer for ~16 articles from different journals, currently work as a consultant for two research groups in Brazil in the epigenetics field (one in Sao Paulo and the other in Curitiba) and has also evaluated projects for the “Bando Giovani” or “Young Investigator Award” promoted by the Italian Ministry of Health in Italy.

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