Reasons for Optimism in 2022


Remembering Carlos Tejada. The Times’s deputy Asia editor, Tejada died on Friday in Seoul at 49. He helped shape coverage of the pandemic that won a Pulitzer Prize, and was known for his deft editing and his fierce loyalty to his colleagues. We’ll miss him.

Investments in infrastructure are on the way. Last month, Congress approved a $1 trillion bipartisan bill to upgrade America’s roads, trains, electricity grid and other infrastructure. While it is unclear how these projects will be carried out, the legislation is the most significant effort in decades to solve long-term problems like relatively poor internet access and inefficient public transportation.

New Covid-19 treatments are coming. Yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration authorized Pfizer’s pills for Covid patients at high risk for severe illness, and it is expected to clear another treatment from Merck this week. The hope is these drugs significantly reduce hospitalization and death from Covid — and both can be administered at home, unlike current treatments that are typically administered in a hospital.

The world may be closer to nuclear fusion than ever. Though not everyone is comfortable with nuclear power, the promise of a fusion reactor producing far more energy than goes into it has huge potential in helping solve the climate crisis.. Investor interest in the technology has led to a growing number of start-ups that employ roughly 1,100 people and have raised a combined $1.9 billion. Commonwealth Fusion Systems, an M.I.T. spinoff, recently announced a successful test of a powerful magnet needed to unlock fusion technology. Most of these projects will probably fall short, but the research itself could prove invaluable down the road.

Biomedical research may get a boost. Research in the early “translational” stage, when basic findings are applied to potential treatments, has long been notoriously difficult to finance. The pandemic has made matters worse. But relief may be on the way. While a bill to create government-backed bonds to finance private research — known as BioBonds — did not advance in the House of Representatives, the financial analyst behind the idea, Karen Petrou, is in talks with the White House, which is creating a new agency to speed up research and cures. Called ARPA-H and modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the proposal has broad bipartisan support, according to a recent Morning Consult poll. So do BioBonds, Petrou said, adding that she hopes Congress will pass the measures early next year. (The White House did not respond to a request for comment).

Americans are starting new businesses at the fastest pace in years. The pandemic helped end a multidecade slump in new start-ups that had both stumped and worried economists. This year, business applications in the U.S. are on track to surpass 5.4 million, up from 4.3 million last year. Why? Perhaps the pandemic gave people more time to think, and because the economic upheaval it wrought created opportunities for small new businesses. Technology has also made it easier to become an entrepreneur, and access to capital has expanded.



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