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Regina Kelder

Eureka's Top Stories of 2020

COVID-19 was the lead story by a yard. This is how we covered it  

Since the Eureka blog was launched in 2012, our staff has always looked back and reflected on which stories readers liked the most. Historically, the Eureka List has been a mix of discrete, unrelated hot topics, but for the first time our Top Ten List – in fact our Top 20 list—is largely confined to one theme, COVID-19.

When we started the year, a pandemic was not on our radar. That changed once news reports from China first described a new virus that was threatening to spill across borders. This was, in fact, already occurring by the time Charles River virologist Matt Pennington, PhD, wrote our opening COVID-19 story, on Jan 27, and his title— A Novel Coronavirus is Breaking Loose —set the tone for the year. Over the course of 2020 Eureka wrote close to 50 stories about COVID-19, relying on our company’s deep bench of scientific experts to help us make sense of this rapidly changing and frightening story.

Here is a snapshot of some of these top stories, presented chronologically to give you a sense of the changing pandemic.

In March, with fear and panic spreading as fast if not faster than the virus, Kévin Dhondt, DVM, stepped in to share some basic knowledge about viruses , which in an offhanded way helped to debunk some of the raging myths. And Deborah Dormady Letham, PhD, who designs new assays for safety studies, wrote about how cooperation has historically helped researchers solve the biggest scientific problems. 

In April, with cases and deaths mounting across the globe, Matt returned with an exhaustive look at the hunt for new therapies , including repurposed drugs initially designed for another condition; he also wrote about the many strategies being explored on the burgeoning COVID-19 vaccine front. Immunologist Rhiannon Jenkinson, PhD, provided insights into one of the conundrums seen over and over in critically ill COVID-19 patients— the cytokine storm . This occurs when the immune system unleashes an unrelenting downpour of cytokines that exhaust the immune system. Katherine Vousden, PhD, an expert in antibodies, weighed in on convalescent plasma , a COVID-19 treatment strategy using transfusions of antibodies from recovered patients. Lastly, Christoph Eberle, PhD, looked at how COVID-19 tends to present in laboratory test results .

In May, Mary McElroy, PhD, an expert in respiratory diseases, wrote about the mysterious Coronavirus Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome , a severe respiratory condition seen in acutely ill COVID-19 patients. And Florence Poitout, PhD, a veterinary clinical pathologist with an interest in thrombosis, wrote about another COVID-19 phenomenon— changes in blood clotting properties of some patients .

In June, as the first vaccine candidates moved in to human trials, guest blogger, Jens-Peter Gregersen, DVM, an expert in vaccine development, wrote about what history tells us about vaccine timetables .

In August, Eureka interviewed Bob Gallo, PhD, Homer & Martha Gudelsky Distinguished Professor in Medicine, co-founder and director of the Institute Human Virology (IHV) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine—and the co-discoverer of HIV—about whether the highly successful oral polio vaccine could be repurposed to prevent SARS-CoV-2. .

And in October, Steve Festin, PhD, and myself collaborated on a lengthy literature review of the growing number and kinds of studies using Syrian hamsters , which emerged early on as one of the best models for studying SARS-CoV-2.

Ironically, our top-performing post in 2020 was published in 2018, but the topic proved prescient. Senior Scientific Writer Mary Parker wrote a centennial piece about the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic and lessons learned. It remains our most searched story today.

We thank our scientists and guest bloggers for their valuable contributions.

Have a good new year. Be well and stay safe. We’ll be back in 2021.