ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: January 27, 2021

How COVID-19 tested and transformed science 

“COVID-19: Science’s Greatest Test”
Chemical & Engineering News

A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, normal life has been upended and the world has endured staggering loss. Despite the myriad challenges, science has stepped up to find solutions to combat the novel coronavirus. A special issue of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, details how science was impacted by the global pandemic, and vice versa.

In the early days of the pandemic, experts were hopeful that science would help bring a divided country together, but mixed messaging, the spread of misinformation and politicization in the U.S. derailed the response to the pandemic. One article in C&EN explores how these issues could impact the country's public trust in science. Another story looks at how the very culture of science has changed. Scientists have been thrust into the spotlight and worked at record speed to fight SARS-CoV-2, from mapping its genome sequence to the development of a vaccine. Collaboration and data sharing across disciplines has been a positive aspect, and flexibility of work and school has helped increase productivity for some. Conversely, the pandemic has hindered diversity and the development of new scientists because of economic impacts and lack of hands-on time in the lab.

A third feature highlights the technology advances that were key to scientists’ success in diagnosing, treating and preventing COVID-19. Tools used in these efforts included the modified adenoviruses that enabled vaccine development and cryo-electron microscopy, which was used to visualize the virus’s structure. The pandemic has also shed light on how pharmaceutical treatments are used. When SARS-CoV-2 started spreading, doctors tried an array of existing drugs to treat the virus in the absence of novel treatments, with mixed results. While some drugs, such as remdesivir, were given emergency approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, others were outright failures, including the much-touted hydroxychloroquine. Overall, experts agree that drug repurposing is a worthwhile effort under the circumstances, but it must work in parallel to developing new therapeutics.

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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