The Next Big Thing

"We're genetically engineering antibodies [proteins that the immune system uses to identify and destroy germs and other foreign objects] to seek out and go after tumors while leaving healthy cells untouched." The antibodies--which are specific to each type of cancer--would be administered through a series of injections. Malecki recently tested the breast and ovarian cancer antibodies on mice, and "so far, it's been successful," he says.

ETA: Three to five years Malecki and his team are preparing to scale up production of the breast and ovarian cancer antibodies for human trials. If results are good, it should be submitted for FDA approval within two years.

Worth the Wait

Medical breakthroughs typically take years--sometimes decades--before they're available to the public. Get a load of the backstory on these historic innovations

Viagra: 7 years

British researchers originally patented the little blue pill in 1991 -- as a heart disease drug. They realized something was up by 1994, when patients started talking about the medicine's surprising perk. The FDA approved it to treat erectile dysfunction on March 27, 1998, also known as the happiest day in Bob Dole's life.

Polio vaccine: 21 years

In 1934, scientists were trying unsuccessfully to make vaccines from the ground-up spinal cords of monkeys. In 1952, after several more failed trials, Jonas Salk tested a vaccine that used a dead form of the virus. It got the greenlight for public use in 1955 -- in time to help combat a huge U.S. outbreak.

The Pill: 24 years

In 1941, chemistry professor Russell Marker made synthetic progesterone using a compound found in Mexican wild yams. His innovation paved the way for creation of the Pill, approved by the FDA in 1960. Yet it took five years and a Supreme Court ruling before American women got the right to take it. Thanks, Margaret Sanger!

HPV Vaccine: 26 years

German scientist Harald zur Hausen nailed down the cause of most cervical cancers--certain strains of human papilloma virus (HPV)--in the early 1980s. Still, it took scientists two decades to figure out how to prevent the infection. In 2006 the FDA approved the vaccine for girls between the ages of 9 and 26.

Lasik: 40 years

In 1950, Colombia-based ophthalmologist Jose Barraquer began cutting thin flaps in patients' corneas to refine their shape and help correct lousy vision. But it wasn't until lasers went mainstream that the procedure could be perfected. Forty years later, U.S. scientists created Lasik, quickly making contacts so 1989.


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