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Novartis charged Prosecutors in Tokyo announced last week that they would pursue charges against a Japanese subsidiary of drug giant Novartis and one of the company’s former employees, Nobuo Shirahashi. The charges concern allegations of data manipulation related to research on the blood-pressure medication Diovan (valsartan). In a statement, Novartis said that it had “already undertaken decisive action to address problems” with research programmes in Japan, and that it was “committed to changing the culture” at its subsidiary. The firm, which is headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, also said that it would cooperate fully with the Japanese authorities.

Biotech acquisition Biotechnology company Genentech announced on 1 July that it would pay US$725 million for Seragon Pharmaceuticals of San Diego, California, which is developing drugs for hormone-dependent cancers. Seragon focuses on therapies that selectively target individual oestrogen receptors and mark them for degradation. Its lead compound is in early clinical trials against advanced breast cancer. Genentech, based in South San Francisco, California, said that the deal is expected to close in the third quarter of this year.

Credit: Bob Steneck (1975); Philip Dunstan (2004)


Reefs disappearing Most Caribbean coral reefs could disappear in the next 20 years, according to a report by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the United Nations Environment Programme. Status and Trends of Caribbean Coral Reefs: 1970–2012 attributes the problem to the loss of the region’s two main grazers: the parrotfish and the sea urchin. Disease caused a mass sea-urchin die-off in 1983 and over-fishing has greatly reduced the parrotfish population. The Caribbean has about one-sixth of its original coral cover left, says the report, which analysed more than 35,000 surveys conducted at 90 Caribbean locations. Carysfort Reef — within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary — is pictured.

Facebook furore Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has officially expressed consternation over an experiment by Facebook. In the study, published in PNAS last month, Facebook manipulated the posts that its users could see to test whether seeing only happy or only sad posts would affect a user’s mood (A. D. I. Kramer et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, 8788–8790; 2014). A PNAS statement, released on 3 July, criticized the social-media website for failing to receive informed consent from its users before experimenting on them. But the journal conceded that because Facebook is a private company, it is not bound by the same ethics rules as government-funded researchers.


Animal research Government inspections of animal research in the United Kingdom must be reviewed, according to a 2 July report from an independent advisory group of scientists called the Animals in Science Committee. The report was commissioned after allegations of poor practice at one of the country’s most prestigious universities, Imperial College London. See for more.

Future Earth hubs The Future Earth initiative, an effort to coordinate environmental research around the world, will be led by a secretariat that is distributed across five hubs, the initiative announced on 2 July. The hubs, located in Canada, France, Japan, Sweden and the United States, will jointly coordinate and facilitate research activities; communicate and distribute knowledge; and build research skill in poor countries. The secretariat should be up and running by the end of 2014.

Antibiotic review The United Kingdom will review its regulatory and research practices to combat the growing global threat of antibiotic resistance, Prime Minister David Cameron said on 2 July. Cameron has commissioned an independent review, led by economist James O’Neill and co-funded by the Wellcome Trust biomedical-research charity in London, that will examine the economic impact of antibiotic resistance and work out a plan for government action. This could include the creation of regulatory incentives for companies to develop new antibiotics, increased government investment in antibiotic development, and strategies for cooperating with low- and middle-income countries.

Brain-project strife Around 150 scientists signed a letter delivered to the European Commission on 7 July protesting about the direction of the European Union’s €1-billion (US$1.4-billion) Human Brain Project. The letter requests that the commission seriously consider whether the programme is still fit for purpose. Launched last October, the project has come under fire from neuroscientists who claim that poor management has run part of the effort’s scientific plans off course. See pages 125 and 133 for more.

Development goals The United Nations says that “much more effort is needed” to meet its Millennium Development Goals — internationally agreed targets such as reducing ill-health, environmental degradation and poverty by 2015. An annual report released on 7 July showed good progress in reducing poverty and fighting malaria and HIV/AIDS, but emphasized that progress on fighting hunger has slowed and more work is needed to tackle child mortality.

Credit: Chimp Haven


Retired chimps More than 100 chimpanzees that had been previously used for biomedical research by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) have arrived at Chimp Haven, a federally funded sanctuary in Keithville, Louisiana. (One of the chimps, named Sassy, is pictured.) Their retirement is the first step in scaling back the NIH’s primate research. In June 2013, the agency announced that it would retire around 310 of its 360 research chimpanzees to sanctuary. The decision followed a December 2011 report by the US Institute of Medicine that recommended strict limits on the use of chimps in biomedical and behavioural research. See for more.

Carbon satellite NASA successfully launched a carbon-tracking satellite on 2 July, five years after its first attempt crashed into the ocean. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) will track carbon dioxide from space with the best resolution ever achieved (see Nature 510, 451–452; 2014), supplementing global measurements already being made by Japan’s Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite. The first OCO launch failed in 2009 when the clamshell-shaped cover for the satellite did not separate from the Taurus launch vehicle. OCO-2 was launched aboard a Delta rocket from the Vandenberg military base in southern California.

Ebola emergency At an emergency meeting in Accra, Ghana, on 3 July, health officials from 12 countries in West Africa agreed that they need better coordination, financing, community participation and surveillance to contain the ongoing large outbreak of Ebola virus disease. By 2 July, there had been at least 779 cases of Ebola virus in the region, including 481 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. See page 126 for more.


Accelerator funding The European Synchrotron Radiation Facility won approval on 3 July for a €150-million (US$204-million) upgrade, to be completed by 2022. A replacement synchrotron (which uses magnets to accelerate electrons and produce X-rays) will be built in the existing tunnel in Grenoble, France. A separate particle accelerator, the €1.8-billion European Spallation Source, which is scheduled to start producing neutrons by 2019, got the green light for construction in Lund, Sweden, on 4 July. Germany agreed to pay 11% of construction costs — meaning that 97.5% of the project’s funding has been secured.

Wind-power loans The US Department of Energy issued a US$150-million conditional loan guarantee on 1 July for the offshore wind-power project Cape Wind. If finalized, it would be the first loan guarantee for an offshore wind project in the United States. Slated to begin construction off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, next year, Cape Wind will be the first commercial-scale offshore wind farm in the United States and will have the capacity of at least 360 megawatts of power.

Credit: Source: Fraunhofer ISE


Solar power produced around 25% of Germany’s electrical power at peak times in June, and solar and wind plants together generated 17% of total electricity in the first half of 2014 (up from 13.7% in2013), according to the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systemsin Freiburg. Last week, the institute said that all of its electrical-energy data were openly available online (at so that anyone can track Germany’s Energiewende — the effort to transform its energy system (see Nature 496, 156–158; 2013).


10 July The United Nations releases its 2014 World Urbanization Prospects report, containing updated figures on the global rise of urbanization, including estimates of the most populous cities and projections to 2030.

10 July Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will reveal his government’s first budget. Some expect him to outline plans to boost economic growth, including increased funding for science and technology.