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Seven days: 23–29 November 2012

The news in brief: Target for polio eradication missed; greenhouse-gas concentrations hit record high; and science advice to UK politicians is safe.

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Egg-free flu jab A seasonal influenza vaccine made without growing the virus in fertilized chicken eggs was approved for the first time by the US Food and Drug Administration on 20 November. Flucelvax uses flu strains grown in animal cells and is made by drug giant Novartis, headquartered in Basel, Switzerland. Like other flu vaccines, it protects against the three strains of flu predicted to be the most prevalent during the coming flu season. See for more.



Grand Canyon flooded to restore habitats A gush of water into the Colorado River marked the start of efforts to rebuild beaches and sandbars by redistributing sediment along the Grand Canyon. Water released from the Glen Canyon Dam flowed fastest between 9 p.m. on 19 November and 10 p.m. the next day, with flows reaching around 1,200 cubic metres per second, according to the US Department of the Interior. The project, which follows 16 years of research on the potential effects of the releases, aims to restore vegetation and boost populations of fish and other wildlife.


EU budget limbo Talks between European heads of state ended on 23 November without any agreement being reached on the European Union (EU) budget for 2014–20. Negotiations will continue next year, but the EU Horizon 2020 research programme is facing cuts of 12% in a deal proposed by Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, who is chairing the negotiations. See page 638 for more.

Space deal Europe’s research ministers have agreed a budget of €10.1 billion (US$13 billion) for the European Space Agency (ESA) for the next few years, and have set out the next steps for replacing the Ariane 5 satellite-launching rocket. The settlement means that ESA’s science programme will have flat funding of about €500 million per year between 2013 and 2017. See page 645 and for more.

UK energy deal Britain’s energy and finance ministries have struck a deal to support financing for low-carbon energy. On 23 November, the government said that utility firms could triple customer charges that support nuclear, wind, solar and other low-carbon electricity sources, bringing such funding to £7.6 billion (US$12.2 billion) annually (in real terms) by 2020. The United Kingdom wants 30% of its electricity to come from renewables by then, up from 11% today. But the deal — which foreshadowed an energy bill released this week — saw politicians drop a proposal to eliminate carbon emissions from the electricity sector almost entirely by 2030. See for more.

Progress on HIV In the past two years, the number of people accessing antiretroviral therapy for HIV has increased by 63% globally. Moreover, in the past six years AIDS-related deaths have fallen by one-quarter (to around 1.7 million in 2011). And in the past decade the number of new infections has fallen by 20% (to around 2.5 million in 2011) — with declines of more than 50% in 25 low- and middle-income countries, many of them in Africa. The encouraging statistics were reported on 20 November by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.

Polio setback The Global Polio Eradication Initiative will miss its goal of stopping spread of the viral disease this year, says a report released this week by the programme’s Independent Monitoring Board. Of the four countries where the disease still exists, three — Afghanistan, Pakistan and Chad — are making progress against polio. However, the fourth, Nigeria, has seen cases double between 2011 and 2012, accounting for more than half of the 175 cases recorded globally this year.

UK science advice The UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology has been spared heavy budget cuts. The office, which provides politicians with analysis of scientific issues, was facing cuts of up to £98,000 (US$157,000), or 17% of its budget. But after a protest backed by two former British science ministers, the office has secured financing until April 2015. See for more.

Credit: Chuck Nacke/Time Life Pictures/Getty


Transplant pioneer Joseph Murray (pictured), who performed the first successful human organ transplant, died on 26 November, aged 93. In 1954, he transplanted a kidney between identical twins. Murray, a director of the Surgical Research Laboratory at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, shared the 1990 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Ape expert cleared Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, former executive director of the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary in Des Moines, is to return to the centre after an investigation committee found no evidence to support allegations that she had failed to care for bonobos there. In a statement released on 20 November, the sanctuary said that the committee had “encountered significant counter-evidence against the claims”. Savage-Rumbaugh had been placed on leave in September pending the results of the enquiry. See for more.

Fraudster punished Nutrition researcher Eric Smart has agreed to refrain from making grant applications to the National Institutes of Health for seven years. The US Office of Research Integrity reported on 20 November that Smart fabricated figures in 10 papers and 7 grant applications over 10 years while he was at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. See for more.

Illegal profits Sidney Gilman, a neurologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, has been charged with insider trading that netted two hedge-fund companies a total of US$276 million. Gilman gave hedge-fund manager Mathew Martoma of CR Intrinsic Investors, based in Stamford, Connecticut, early news of safety data from clinical trials of an experimental drug for Alzheimer’s disease. Gilman has agreed to pay a settlement of more than $234,000, but Martoma faces criminal charges. See for more.

EU health chief Conservative Maltese politician Tonio Borg was approved as Europe’s commissioner for health and consumer affairs, after the European Parliament voted in favour of his appointment on 21 November. Critics fear that the devout Catholic could attempt to derail European Union funding for human embryonic stem-cell research. Borg replaces John Dalli, a Maltese politician who resigned on 16 October as a result of corruption charges.


Emissions peak The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit a record high of 390.9 parts per million in 2011, the World Meteorological Organization reported on 20 November. Levels of the potent greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide also reached new highs last year. See for more.

Contagion concerns Four more cases of an infection caused by a novel coronavirus — the viral family behind severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) — were reported by the World Health Organization on 23 November, bringing the tally to six. Three cases, including one fatality, occurred in Saudi Arabia; the fourth was in Qatar. Two of the new cases are from one household, raising the possibility that the virus can be transmitted between people, not just by contact with infected animals. See for more.

Flight ban flouted A beagle breeder has dodged an airline’s ban on transporting animals bound for research labs by stating that the dogs would not be harmed. The puppies were bound for Advinus, a contract-research organization in Bangalore, India, that uses beagles in drug-toxicity work in which the animals are euthanized. But the breeder, Beijing Marshall Biotechnology, a branch of Marshall BioResources of North Rose, New York, told Cathay Pacific airline that the dogs would not be hurt or killed. The New York firm said last week that it is investigating the incident. See for more.

Credit: Source: UNEP


As climate negotiators gather in Doha, the United Nations Environment Programme has released a report warning that pledges to cut greenhouse-gas emissions fall short of what is needed to have a “likely” (greater than 66%) chance of limiting global temperature rise to 2 °C. By 2020, annual emissions must be no more than 44 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon dioxide and equivalent gases — but even the strictest pledges fall 8 Gt short of that target, a gap that has grown since last year.


3–7 December Preliminary findings from James Cameron’s dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, and new results from NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars, are discussed at the American Geophysical Union’s meeting in San Francisco, California.

5 December UK scientists begin to drill into Antarctica’s subglacial Lake Ellsworth, buried under more than 3 kilometres of ice (see Nature 491, 506–507; 2012).

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Seven days: 23–29 November 2012. Nature 491, 642–643 (2012).

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