Bloomberg Best of the Year 2018: He Jiankui, associate professor at the Southern University of Science and Technology of China, attends a panel discussion at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong, China, on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. Photographer: Anthony Kwan/Bloomberg
Man in the spotlight: He Jiankui, the Chinese researcher at the centre of the gene-edited babies furore © Bloomberg

Season's greetings to all our subscribers. We will take a break till early January, but you can keep up with FT stories on Twitter @FTHealth. In our final edition of 2018 we look back at the big themes of the year.

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Clive Cookson, FT Science Editor:
In medical science, Crispr provided highs through 2018 as researchers made rapid progress in developing the technology to edit human genes. But it also contributed the year's low point last month when Chinese scientist He Jiankui announced that, in contravention of a worldwide moratorium, he had created the first gene-edited babies

Other newsworthy themes in medical research next year will include: alarming growth in antimicrobial resistance; remarkable organoids (miniature human organs including brains grown from stem cells); bioelectronic devices using electricity to treat disease; and further evidence for the pervasive influence of the microbiome on human biology.

Anjana Ahuja, FT Science Columnist: The ongoing Ebola outbreak in DRC is concerning — and a major testing ground for preparedness after the devastating 2014-2016 outbreak in west Africa. While it is encouraging that novel vaccines and drugs are being fast-tracked and deployed, health workers have not always been able to get into regions riven by conflict. This is a reminder of the heavy health toll associated with war and displacement; Yemen is another horror hotspot, where children have particularly suffered from malnutrition and lack of vaccination.

The health impact of climate change is rising up the agenda, with the Lancet's recent authoritative report . I also echo Clive's concerns about AMR. Very little progress has been made on incentivising antibiotic development and the AMR outlook is only worsening. Closer to home, the uncertainty over Brexit will continue to put Britain's top-notch reputation for biomedical research at risk.

Andrew Jack, Global Education Editor: The populist backlash fuelled by social media has spread from politics into health, depressing vaccination rates and causing a rise in preventable infections including measles. It is also sparking a new insularity in the US and elsewhere with threats to global health funding.

Technology offers great scope to trawl “big data” to help develop more efficient research, patient recruitment, diagnoses and treatment. But Google’s decision to transfer to the US its UK DeepMind Health unit— which holds many NHS records — raises fresh concerns about the ethical and commercial boundaries of the use of personal health data.

Darren Dodd, FT Health Writer: A year of severe heatwaves and toxic air pollution shifted the debate on climate change from environmental concern to public health emergency, helped by campaigns such as the WHO's BreatheLife and the work of Lancet Countdown. “This is no longer about a polar bear a long way away, but a child with asthma standing next to you.”

Mental health also moved up the global agenda — albeit still a long way from parity of esteem with physical health. Look out for some interesting initiatives in the workplace in our Health at Work magazine on January 16.


'Startling' stroke study Up to one in four adults will have a stroke sometime in their lives. It accounts for 10 per cent of global deaths and 75 per cent of these are in low- and middle-income countries. The figures were described as “startling” but 2018 at least was a rich year for stroke research. (NEJM, IHME, Lancet)

News round up

GSK break up The UK based pharmaceutical group has generated cash by rolling its consumer products division into a joint venture with Pfizer, but it still needs to find ways to strengthen its pharmaceuticals business.

The health of Britain Dame Sally Davies, the UK’s chief medical officer, calls in her annual report for tougher government measures to reduce sugar and salt intake, and track progress on health outcomes.

Most-read FT health articles for 2018

Nanobots kill off cancerous tumours as fiction becomes reality

Pharma chief defends 400% drug price rise as 'moral requirement'

Japan begins to embrace the 100-year life

Night shift: The dangers of working around the clock

Smartphone addiction:big tech's balancing act

3D-printed human corneas created at Newcastle University

The long fight for a cure of PTSD

GSK board considers break-up of group

Inside DeepMind as the lines with Google blur

Workplace exhaustion is a vicious cycle in the UK

Round-up of round-ups

Biggest global health issues of 2018 (Global Health Now)

Health and medicine: What we learnt in 2018 (New York Times)

Jama network articles of the year (Jama)

Five biggest healthcare stories of 2018 (Forbes)

Eight 2018 disease outbreaks you should know about (BuzzFeed) 

2018: four things that probably got better (Vox)

Most popular health articles of 2018 (Medical News Today)

A look back at 2018 (Global Fund)

Ten most remarkable medical discoveries of 2018 (Times Now India)

Seven of the most bizarre health stories of 2018 ( 

Podcast of the week

What is the correct ethical response to the claims of a Chinese scientist to have created the world's first genetically-edited babies? (NYT, 24m)

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Final thought

Deep-pan, crisp, and even The season of over-eating is upon us. But rather than splurging, followed by a crash diet, a few small changes in behaviour can help prevent weight-gain. (BMJ)

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