From Vaccines to Golden Rice: 10 Positive Stories From 2022


Over the previous yr, the headlines have been dominated by alarming occasions: the Russian invasion of Ukraine, excessive inflation, provide chain shortages, and the specter of meals insecurity for a lot of nations. However 2022 was additionally a yr of milestones towards a greater future, scientific breakthroughs, and tales of hope. Right here’s a take a look at 10 tales of human progress from the final 12 months.

1. We came upon that civilization reached peak agricultural land

For almost all of human historical past, producing extra meals required extra land. However beginning within the early 1900s, and persevering with via the following 100 years, 4 highly effective forces—artificial nitrogen fertilizer, artificial pesticides, hydrocarbon-powered mechanization, and improved genetic choice—allowed humanity to supply extra meals from much less land. Between 1900 and 2000, agricultural land—that’s, the sum of cropland and pastoral land used for grazing livestock— elevated dramatically and constantly yr after yr.

However the newest information launched in 2022 counsel that whereas land use for crops remains to be growing, whole agricultural land use seems to have peaked within the yr 2000, and is now in decline. Peak agricultural land use has been pushed largely by altering the way in which we feed the animals we eat, shifting from grazing livestock to feeding them crops we’ve grown. The change has helped cut back the quantity of land that have to be transformed from wilderness to pasture, which has, in flip, lowered the stress on wildlife habitat. Progress ahead is, nonetheless, not progress accomplished, and to proceed to cut back pasture land allocation and switch the tide towards peak cropland, we should proceed to enhance crop yields.

2. We deployed a malaria vaccine for the primary time

Between the years 2000 and 2020, world malaria deaths declined by roughly 30%; nonetheless, in 2021, there have been nonetheless an estimated 247 million instances and 619,000 associated deaths. The hard-won progress so far has been pushed largely by the increasing use of insecticide-treated mattress nets and antimalarial medicine. Probably the most highly effective instrument within the struggle in opposition to malaria, a protected and efficient malaria vaccine, has remained out of attain.

However this yr, for the primary time, the World Well being Group advisable using a malaria vaccine: the RTS,S/AS01 Mosquirix shot, which the WHO mentioned must be deployed to guard kids dwelling in areas with reasonable to excessive transmission. By April 2022, greater than 1 million kids in Africa had obtained the world’s first malaria vaccine. The WHO estimates that the shot may save the lives of roughly 40,000 to 80,000 such kids yearly.

The World Well being Group backed the widespread rollout of the Mosquirix vaccine after profitable pilot applications in Kenya, Ghana, and Malawi.

Patrick Meinhardt—Getty Photos

As well as, one other malaria vaccine, the R21/Matrix-M developed by Adrian Hill and the College of Oxford, additionally continued to indicate promise. In keeping with a examine revealed in The Lancet in early December, the vaccine offered 80% safety in opposition to the illness in human trials. If accepted, the plan is for the R21 malaria vaccine to enter manufacturing with the Serum Institute of India, with a goal of 200 million doses yearly, and could also be bought at lower than half the value of the RTS,S malaria vaccine.

3. The James Webb telescope introduced the universe into focus

By way of the top of 2021 and the start of 2022, the James Webb Area Telescope had a profitable launch, primarily flawless deployment and calibration, and commenced returning its first photographs. The subsequent-generation telescope took almost 26 years and $10 billion to make occur. However it seems the gamble goes to repay, as Webb brings into focus the way in which galaxies seemed only a few hundred million years after the formation of the universe.

The primary photographs from Webb, launched in July of 2022, captured the creativeness of the world, instilling a way of each marvel on the magnitude and great thing about area, and likewise our small and seemingly insignificant place throughout the larger universe.

Anyone home? One of the first images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, showing galaxy cluster SMACS 0723. (NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO)

Anybody dwelling? One of many first photographs from NASA’s James Webb Area Telescope, displaying galaxy cluster SMACS 0723.


The main focus in 2023 will flip to the telescope’s major missions: finding out the early galaxies of the universe, observing star formation, and observing the chemical properties of planetary methods, inclusive of the photo voltaic system by which we reside. This yr there have been a whole lot of ways in which Webb may have gone fallacious, and just one manner for the mission to go proper. In opposition to all odds, Webb carried out flawlessly.

Learn extra: TIME’s Innovator of the Yr for 2022: Gregory Robinson and the James Webb Telescope Crew

4. Wild mammals rebounded in Europe

Throughout Europe, many wild animals are making a comeback, returning to the area’s oceans, forests, and rivers. A discount in habitat loss and conservation, together with reintroduction applications, supply hope for a future the place many native species to the area can as soon as once more flourish.

For a lot of the twentieth century, searching and habitat loss lowered giant animal populations all through the European continent. However over the past 50 years, many species have made an unimaginable comeback, with steady and self-perpetuating populations of huge animals, from whales to bison, rebounding.

At the very least 19 species had a median relative change in abundance larger than 100%, whereas on the prime finish of enhancements, European bison and Eurasian beaver populations grew by an astonishing 16,626% and 16,705%, respectively.

A European bison in the German state of Brandenburg, on Jan. 4, 2021. For the past decade, bison have been living largely undisturbed by humans in a protected wilderness zone in this part of Germany. (Ingolf König-Jablonski—Picture Alliance/Getty Images)

A European bison within the German state of Brandenburg, on Jan. 4, 2021. For the previous decade, bison have been dwelling largely undisturbed by people in a protected wilderness zone on this a part of Germany.

Ingolf König-Jablonski—Image Alliance/Getty Photos

5. Farmers within the Philippines harvested the primary large-scale genetically engineered “golden” rice crop

Among the finest tales of progress this yr unfolded quietly in 17 rice fields within the Philippines this October. For the primary time in world historical past, farmers within the Philippines harvested golden rice on a big scale—some 74 tons that had been cultivated over the earlier yr. That’s comparatively insignificant when in comparison with the annual manufacturing of typical rice for the nation, a little bit over 13 million tons in 2022; it’s, nonetheless, a milestone for genetically engineered rice. Whereas golden rice has been round for many years, that is the primary time it has been made legally obtainable.

Golden rice is a strong instrument within the struggle in opposition to vitamin A deficiency, a situation that claims the eyesight and lives of a whole lot of hundreds of kids yearly. In 2009 the WHO estimated that “250,000–500,000 kids who’re vitamin A-deficient develop into blind yearly, and half of them die inside 12 months of dropping their sight.”

Typically, this situation impacts kids in low- and middle-income areas with a excessive dependency on customary rice, which lacks vitamin A. Golden rice is a model of the staple grain genetically engineered to supply vitamin A, and in idea, may cut back or eradicate vitamin A deficiencies with out requiring a serious change in dietary habits.

6. Guinea worm illness reached near-eradication ranges

In 1989, there have been 892,055 instances of Guinea worm illness, a dreadful and debilitating waterborne parasitic an infection traditionally endemic to Asia, the Center East, and Africa. In 2022 there have been simply 15 instances globally—a decline of 99.998%.

This astonishing decline in an infection charges was pushed not by a brand new vaccine or breakthrough know-how, however via group teaching programs, efficient isolation of contaminated individuals from water sources, increasing entry to improved and handled water sources, and fundamental water filtration. Thanks to those largely low-tech mitigations there’s now hope that it could be doable, maybe throughout the subsequent few years, to declare the illness really eradicated,

7. India developed its first cervical most cancers vaccine

The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, introduced the event of India’s first domestically developed and manufactured cervical most cancers vaccine—however it’s the value that’s the true breakthrough. The newly-developed vaccine will present broad safety in opposition to the human papilloma virus (HPV), sorts 16 and 18, that are chargeable for not less than 70% of cervical cancers, in addition to sorts 6 and 11.

Whereas there are already two extremely efficient HPV vaccines obtainable in India—Gardasil, from Merck, and Cervarix, from GlaxoSmithKline—they’re each prohibitively costly for a lot of low-income households in India, with every dose costing Rs 2,800 (about $34) and Rs 3,299 (about $40), respectively. The value level for the brand new domestically-manufactured HPV vaccine is anticipated to be between 200 rupees and 400 rupees ($2.42-$4.85), finally serving to extra ladies throughout India entry the doubtless life-saving shot. The Serum Institute is concentrating on to supply roughly 200 million doses over the approaching two years.

8. Lab-grown meat obtained the inexperienced mild from the U.S. FDA

Lab-grown meat has been on the horizon for over a decade, with the world’s first lab-grown burger eaten in 2013. In 2022, the know-how had a milestone breakthrough, when California-based Upside Meals’ meat cultivated instantly from hen cells was given a inexperienced mild from the U.S. Meals and Drug Administration. The FDA mainly says Upside’s cultivated hen is protected for human consumption; the following step is to get approval from the U.S. Division of Agriculture. After that, it could be the primary lab-grown meat to be bought within the U.S.

A dish made with Upside Foods' lab-grown chicken product (Rozette Rago for TIME)

A dish made with Upside Meals’ lab-grown hen product

Rozette Rago for TIME

The know-how, whereas nonetheless in its infancy, may assist remodel how we develop and devour meat, offering a sustainable various to the trendy manufacturing facility farm. If builders can successfully scale and market lab-grown meat successfully, it may assist to offset the excessive inefficiency losses in utilizing dwelling animals to show power into scrumptious protein, decreasing useful resource consumption and credulity.

Learn Extra: Unique: We Tasted The World’s First Cultivated Steak, No Cows Required

9. The SARS-COV-2 vaccine saved hundreds of thousands of lives

In mild of the hardships skilled by billions of individuals globally, you’d be forgiven for overlooking the silver lining that was the speedy analysis, growth, manufacturing, and deployment of the 4 major COVID-19 vaccines. A examine revealed in June in The Lancet concluded that SARS-COV2 vaccination had already prevented between 14-20 million COVID-19 associated deaths throughout 185 nations globally.

A health worker administering a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot on March 22, 2022, in San Salvador, El Salvador. (Emerson Flores—APHOTOGRAFIA/Getty Images)

A well being employee administering a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot on March 22, 2022, in San Salvador, El Salvador.

Emerson Flores—APHOTOGRAFIA/Getty Photos

The Commonwealth Fund, a non-public basis, estimates that the administration of the roughly 655 million doses overlaying 80% of the U.S. inhabitants has prevented greater than 18 million hospitalizations and three million deaths. The vaccine deployment saved an estimated $1 trillion in medical prices, to say nothing of the social and emotional devastation it helped keep away from.

10. CRISPR for most cancers had a serious breakthrough

This yr has been replete with information of development in medical and agricultural purposes for the genetic engineering instrument CRISPR. Among the many strongest tales about CRISPR was its breakthrough impact within the therapy of a 13-year-old woman affected by aggressive leukemia that was unresponsive to traditional therapy. {The teenager} had her immune cells genetically altered by way of CRISPR to hunt out and destroy most cancers; she now has no detectable most cancers inside her physique.

Whereas it could be too early to hail the brand new therapy as a readily deployable remedy, it’s unquestionably a serious breakthrough, probably a watershed second within the historical past of how humanity treats most cancers. Medical doctors and researchers at the moment are working towards partaking one other 10 adolescent sufferers for additional trials of the therapy.

The breakthrough was a part of the bigger story of progress in using CRISPR for the therapy of most cancers, with analysis advancing on various fronts, together with most prominently a promising personalised T cell modification which might permit for the physique’s personal immune system to struggle stable cancers, and with the FDA lifting its ban on CRISPR base enhancing for most cancers therapy.

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