Special Report

Eight Medical Breakthroughs of 2015

Baxter B. Allen, M.D.

Medical advancement is often a long and slow process — decades can sometimes pass before an amazing idea finally materializes into a practical application.

Developing drugs and other treatments often requires costly investments over the many phases of development and trials. Often, drugs that show promise in the early stages — in lab and animal testing — end up useless and even dangerous in humans. Despite these barriers, a handful of major discoveries are made each year, some of which can potentially lead to paradigm shifts in health care.

Some of these discoveries — such as a new drug for a common condition or a new surgical procedure — have immediate applications and impact the patient experience. Other discoveries change how we understand the human body, how future research is conducted, and may take far longer to have tangible outcomes in the real world.

Click here to see the eight medical breakthroughs of 2015.

In 2015, eight such advances took place. The long-term effect of these advancements can only be speculated on at this point, but in each case, there is at least some potential to change the way medicine is performed.

A few, such as the development of a new platform for antibiotic discovery has already had an immediate impact. Others are incremental, but substantial improvements in existing technologies that are likely to have a significant impact on health outcomes in the future. Finally, even the most substantial discovery is unlikely to have a major effect without a clinical trial first being completed or, more mundanely, being approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.