The work of many scientists has led to a badly needed bright spot at the end of this difficult year: an authorized vaccine for COVID-19. It’s no wonder that 332 – the number of days from sequencing the genome of the coronavirus to an administered vaccine – is the international statistic of the year. And for a broader look at the many contributions science as an enterprise has made toward combating the pandemic, I recommend this piece by a physician scientist who has dedicated himself to developing diagnostics for the disease.

Of course, we continue to cover all aspects of science, including a story this week on a researcher using artificial intelligence to gain insight into forced labor on the high seas, one on researchers who flew through wildfire smoke to learn more about its effects and this one on novel antidepressants like ketamine.

Thank you for reading our weekly science newsletter. I welcome your feedback on topics that you’d like the science team to cover. Just reply to this email.

Martin La Monica

Deputy Editor

On Dec. 8, 2020, the first members of the public were given doses of a coronavirus vaccine. AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool

International Statistic of the Year: Race for a COVID-19 vaccine

Liberty Vittert, Washington University in St Louis

The coronavirus vaccine was developed faster than any vaccine in history. It took just 332 days from the first sequencing of the virus genome to the first vaccines given to the public.

The number one scientific breakthrough for 2020: multiple vaccines to prevent COVID-19. Philippe Raimbault/Photodisc via Getty Images

The top scientific breakthrough for 2020 was understanding SARS-CoV-2 and how it causes COVID-19 – and then developing multiple vaccines

David Pride, University of California San Diego

The development of multiple vaccines against the virus that causes COVID-19 has been hailed as the breakthrough of 2020. But there were many more supporting discoveries that made this possible.

Alleviating major depression for the long term involves more than just drugs. Rafa Elias via Getty Images

New antidepressants can lift depression and suicidal thoughts fast, but don’t expect magic cures

Nicholas Mischel, Wayne State University

Drugs like ketamine can relieve depression symptoms, including suicidal thoughts, within hours, but they also carry risks that patients need to understand.

Other good finds