Despite the upheaval the coronavirus pandemic has brought, uneasy times also set a course for innovation. Pharmaceutical companies have pivoted to vaccine development, while biotechnology laboratories at major corporations and universities have become laser-focused on developing accurate testing devices, including an easy-to-use, fast, reliable, and extremely cheap test for COVID-19; personal protective equipment, like a prototype for a reusable N95 mask; and technologies to ensure people have access to the best possible medical care during trying times. And in spite of these difficult days, better treatments for existing challenges such as myopia, migraines, sleep apnea, and acne have prevailed, helping this year’s top health advances provide the glimmer of hope we all need.
Grand Award Winner: BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card rapid antigen test by Abbott Laboratories
A fast, ultra-cheap coronavirus test
Diagnostic tests to detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can take days to deliver results. But that limbo time between is crucial. Spotting the novel virus as early as possible can signal infectious people to isolate themselves, and help contact tracers identify and notify anyone they’ve been in close quarters with. Since March, countless new offerings to evaluate the population’s infection rates have hit clinics, but one rises above the rest: Abbott’s BinaxNOW rapid test, which received emergency-use authorization from the FDA in August. It detects COVID in fifteen minutes for around $5 per test—and without the need for specialized lab equipment.
To administer the test, a healthcare worker opens a card—which is about the size of a driver’s license—and adds a few drops of a liquid called a reagent. That solution contains chemicals that react with the SARS-Cov-2 nucleocapsid antigen, which is the most abundant coronavirus protein in infectious individuals. Then, using an included swab, the provider takes a nasal sample, inserts it into the card, and folds the paper. A positive result—displayed as two pink lines on the outside of the card—will become evident in about 15 minutes. The system correctly identifies patients with the novel virus 97.1 percent of the time, on average, and provides an accurate negative test 98.5 percent of the time, making it a reliable and speedy assessment of COVID-19.
Aklief cream by Galderma Laboratories, L.P.
A retinoid acne product that’s easier on your skin
Acne vulgaris (meaning “common”) affects up to 85 percent of teens and young adults in the US, according to a 2013 study in the British Journal of Dermatology. A regularly used group of medications called retinoids help alleviate the condition by binding to retinoic acid receptors (RAR) on the skin’s surface, which in turn stimulate and speed up cell growth, causing old cells to rapidly shed and give way to newer, healthier ones. But this process often leads