A global coalition of governments, private enterprises, charities, venture philanthropists, and more came together in 2012 in order to combat neglected tropical diseases, or NTDs. These infections barely made the headlines, but they affected 2 billion people around the world, particularly in low-income nations.
Fast-forward to 2017, and boy, how things have changed. As announced at a health summit in Tokyo this December, 1 billion of the world’s poorest people have received treatment for at least one of these NTDs, and several are set to be completely eliminated.
Back in 2016, we were thrilled to find out that a potentially Earth-like exoplanet named Proxima b resides just 4 light-years away in the closest star system to our own. This breakthrough was somewhat trounced in 2017, however, when it was announced that seven Earth-sized planets were found to be orbiting the ultra-cool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1.
This system may be 10 times further away than Proxima b, but the idea that at least three of these planets could be rocky and habitable sent shockwaves through the scientific community. Remarkably, in just a decade, we may know for sure whether this truly is our second home away out there in the deep, beautiful dark.
There are two stories this year regarding HIV that we simply can’t pick between. Science, after all, is increasingly built on a foundation of discoveries, not just one single game-changing revelation.
The first comes courtesy of a new type of drug, which appeared to suppress the ability of the virus from reactivating or replicating in the body – even when treatment was interrupted. Although not a cure, it could be described as a “functional cure”, in that the infection cannot in this state be passed on to someone else. Yes, it was only tested in mice, not people, but the stunningly effective treatment bodes well for future human-based experiments.
The second study focused on the weaponization of a new type of antibody. When used in animal trials, it was shown to push back against 99 percent of all known strains of HIV – which suggests that fabled 100 percent coverage isn’t as far off as some may have thought.