The race for a Covid-19 vaccine is the medical equivalent of trying to smash the four-minute mile in the 1950s.
The fastest scientists have previously managed to create a vaccine - for mumps - is four years. On average it takes about a decade.
A difference this time is the collective weight behind the push and a vastly accelerated process.
Making a safe coronavirus vaccine available by mid next year is the goal and billions of dollars are being invested. Several governments have already inked agreements with firms for the production of stockpiles
The World Health Organisation says there are 29 vaccines being tested on humans, with six already in the phase three trials conducted before approval is sought. About 160 are under development in total.
A WHO body called Covax allows countries to combine funds to access successful vaccines. Another global body, Cepi, is funding independent Covid-19 vaccine research.
The United States, China and European countries are leading the hunt as global cases pass 21.6 million and deaths near 800,000.
Of interest to New Zealand is the effort by Australia to secure supplies of a vaccine under licence for local manufacture by CSL in Melbourne early next year. The Sydney Morning Herald reported a deal "would also support New Zealand and South Pacific nations".
Australia's Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed Canberra has already signed two non-disclosure agreements over two vaccine trials.
News reports say Australia is aiming to secure the University of Oxford's vaccine, which is at an advanced stage, through British drugmaker AstraZeneca.
There is no guarantee that any vaccine will work. The fast-track approach could be counter-productive for public confidence in a vaccine. Any suggestion of corner-cutting could be damaging. The obvious battle to be first does not help. China has approved an experimental vaccine for its military and Russia has approved a vaccine before phase three trials.
Other research developments are under way. A US saliva coronavirus test being developed at Yale and funded by the NBA could have a dramatic impact on attempts to contain the virus.
The US had about 1000 deaths for the fourth straight day on Sunday, and has since passed 170,000 deaths overall and more than 5.3 million cases.
An interesting divide has developed between the US Administration's focus on a search for a scientific solution which requires expertise and wealth, and its fumbled efforts to deal with the pandemic at ground level. The US has plenty of the former but less of the cohesion which would help with the latter.
SalivaDirect, which has received emergency authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration, could bridge the two trends. The Yale screener is the closest step yet to the cheap, simple and quick Covid-19 test the world needs.
Tests that are costly and take days to process are of limited value for widespread monitoring and the operation of schools, workplaces, businesses and travel.
ABC News reports the new test sidesteps one of the more expensive and labour-intensive steps: pulling out the virus' genetic material. Instead, the Yale method breaks saliva down with an enzyme and applies heat.
It says the total cost is hoped to be US$10 compared to the more than US$100 for other rapid tests. The test still has to be done in a lab, and produces a result in a few hours.
It's not something done at home yet. But it is something hopeful while we await vaccine breakthroughs.