News Release

Year in pharma: COVID-19 and beyond

Reports and Proceedings

American Chemical Society

Not surprisingly, COVID-19 vaccines and antiviral treatments dominated headlines in 2021. But in addition to these breakthroughs, pharmaceutical and biotech companies continued to work on new technologies to treat other diseases. A cover story in Chemical & Engineering News, an independent news outlet of the American Chemical Society, highlights the year in pharma for COVID-19 and beyond.

Two years into the pandemic, the drug industry has affirmed its strength in tackling public health crises, writes Associate Editor Ryan Cross. COVID-19 vaccines from Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech and were rolled out across the U.S. The success of the latter two vaccines, which are based on messenger RNA (mRNA), spurred excitement and investment in other mRNA technologies, such as CRISPR gene-editing systems and protein replacement therapies. Although vaccines remain the first line of defense against SARS-CoV-2, oral antivirals could be a powerful tool to end the pandemic, researchers say. Two of the most promising antiviral pills, Merck’s molnupiravir and Pfizer’s PF-0732133, decreased hospitalization and death rates in clinical trials of unvaccinated people who had risk factors for severe COVID-19.

In other developments this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a controversial drug, Biogen’s Aduhelm, for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Although the antibody medication reduced amyloid-β plaques in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients by more than half in two clinical trials, it slowed cognitive decline by a modest amount in only one of the trials. The controversy and negative press have contributed to little demand for Aduhelm from patients, neurologists report. Other therapies that showed promise in 2021 include psychedelic drugs for mental illness, stem cell therapies for diabetes and Parkinson’s disease, and base-editing treatments for sickle cell disease.

The article, “Another Year of Pharma,” is freely available here.

The American Chemical Society (ACS) is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS’ mission is to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and all its people. The Society is a global leader in promoting excellence in science education and providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple research solutions, peer-reviewed journals, scientific conferences, eBooks and weekly news periodical Chemical & Engineering News. ACS journals are among the most cited, most trusted and most read within the scientific literature; however, ACS itself does not conduct chemical research. As a leader in scientific information solutions, its CAS division partners with global innovators to accelerate breakthroughs by curating, connecting and analyzing the world’s scientific knowledge. ACS’ main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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