When I think back on 2020, I am awestruck.
I can hardly believe what has transpired this year, what losses so many have had to endure, and what society has banded together to overcome – in unimaginable circumstances.
Put simply, this year has been a tragedy and a triumph. A tragedy for so many who have lost loved ones, jobs and even their lives. And a triumph for the human spirit and the relentless pursuit of science and innovation at absolute record pace.
Just 12 months ago, last December, the world looked remarkably different. I had just finished writing a blog summarizing IVIRMA researchers’ outstanding performance in 2019, when the group’s brightest doctors, scientists, geneticists and scholars contributed more to the advancement of reproductive science than any other year, and any other group in the world.
They submitted 127 abstracts to major scientific meetings and produced 136 manuscripts, with a total impact factor of 519; these were works aimed at helping those with infertility conceive. The subtext of the blog was obvious: next year can be even better.
Little that I knew, 2020 would turn out to be one of the darkest years in history, and definitely the darkest in my lifetime.
As of this writing, on December 17, 2020, there are 75 million recorded cases of Covid-19 worldwide, and 1,655,044 recorded deaths attributed to the pandemic. That’s the tragedy.
Here’s the triumph: Almost immediately following the news of a novel coronavirus in China, the global medical and scientific community mounted an astonishing response, today resulting in 81 vaccines in clinical trials, several on the verge of approval and one already being given to high-risk populations.
The tireless men and women behind these efforts had to contend with unprecedented challenges in their quest to do their jobs and bring some semblance of normalcy back to life. But they persisted.
And so did we.
IVIRMA researchers were up against their own barriers over the course of the year – from social distancing, to stay home orders, to the inability to enter academic buildings, recruit patients for trials, and in some cases, conduct IVF cycles. Our teams around the world were faced with new obstacles every day.
And yet, against all odds, in 2020, they did more than even I thought possible.
Our researchers completed studies demonstrating diagnostic accuracy of novel PGT-A tests using next gene sequencing, while their IVIRMA colleagues questioned the accuracy of non-invasive PGT-A approaches.
Our investigators developed better ways to select viable embryos by combining time-lapse systems and artificial intelligence, and advanced technologies to cryopreserve embryos.
Our scientists helped establish safer and more effective hormonal stimulation protocols, and successfully demonstrated promising novel approaches in women with diminished ovarian reserve.
In the end, scientifically, 2020 turned out to be a bigger year than 2019, and the most productive year in the history of IVIRMA. We finished this year with 133 abstracts in scientific meetings and 191 manuscripts, totaling a cumulative impact factor of 889.
There’s more. As an old friend once told me, a moment of distress is also a moment of opportunity; in distress we take leaps we would not otherwise dare take. Several months ago, in an effort to share what we’ve learned with the world, improve patient outcomes and inspire the next generation of science superheroes, we launched the IVIRMA Global Online Journal Club and FertiliPod, our weekly podcast. Both have been received very warmly, with an engaged audience that spans 50 countries.
So you’ll understand why, as we prepare to enter 2021, I am optimistic. I believe that IVIRMA investigators who did their best to protect their patients, their families, their co-workers, their neighbors – even strangers – without sacrificing their commitment to scientific inquiry will be rewarded.
How? With more curiosity. More questioning. More midnight oil. More discovery. More patient success stories.
And most of all, a more unshakeable dedication to science – the rewards of which will unfold in the years ahead, when 2020 will be remembered not just as the year of the mask, but as the year of the scientist.
Thank you, IVIRMA scientists, for all you’ve done this year. Have a safe and happy holiday season!