NATURE BRIEFING

Daily briefing: World’s largest vaccine maker bets on Oxford coronavirus candidate

The Serum Institute of India is getting ready to make millions of doses of a promising COVID-19 vaccine. Plus: watch human sperm corkscrew around to swim faster and lessons from astronomy’s big move into the cloud.

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Panasonic Robotics Hub Tokyo.

Japan is considering new rules to prevent the leak of sensitive technology, such as sensors.Credit: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty

Japan strengthens foreign-interference rules

Japan’s cabinet just approved a strategy that aims to keep sensitive research and technologies linked to national security from leaving the country. The strategy, meant to protect research in fields such as quantum computing, artificial intelligence and semiconductor manufacturing, proposes that research funds be withheld from Japanese institutions that receive but do not declare money from foreign governments. The development follows crack-downs by US science agencies on researchers who do not disclose foreign ties, mainly with China.

Nature | 5 min read

COVID-19 coronavirus update

A man and woman standing up and looking at papers, with two other people out of focus on the right.

Raísa Vieira (right) is concerned about diversity losses among early-career researchers in Brazil.Credit: Raísa Vieira

The pandemic is gutting diversity in science

Years of slow improvement in diversity and inclusion in science could come undone because of the COVID-19 crisis. Ecologist Raísa Vieira, who co-authored a June letter to Nature Ecology & Evolution that warned of the threat, says that hard-won diversity gains are already being eroded in her home country of Brazil. “It’s really sad to see what’s happening here,” she says. “It’s like we’re going back 30 years.”

Nature | 8 min read

Reference: Nature Ecology and Evolution letter

World’s largest vaccine producer ramps up

The Serum Institute of India makes 1.5 billion doses of vaccines every year. It has put its might behind the coronavirus-vaccine candidate being developed at the University of Oxford, UK, and is preparing to produce 500 doses each minute in the hopes that trials will prove the vaccine’s efficacy. The private company was founded by Cyrus Poonawalla, a horse-breeder who pivoted his equine resources from running races to being used for horse-serum-based vaccines. Now one of India’s richest families, the Poonawallas have promised that the company’s output will be split 50–50 between India and the rest of the world, with a focus on poorer countries. “We just felt that this was our sort of moment,” says CEO Adar Poonawalla of the company’s US$450-million gamble.

The New York Times | 8 min read

Notable quotable

“I keep a series of Post-it notes at my desk, which I update each day with the number of lives lost to Covid… When I’m feeling drained, I look at that number.”

Virologist Katherine McMahan is working on a potential vaccine at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts (with Belgian Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceutica), that has shown promise in monkeys. (The New York Times | 13 min read)

Reference: Nature paper

Coronavirus research highlights: 1-minute reads

Summer-camp outbreak infects many children

At least 250 campers and staff members tested positive for COVID-19 after attending an overnight camp in the US state of Georgia. All campers and staff were required to test negative for the virus fewer than 13 days before arrival, and campers did not mix with those sleeping in other cabins. Staff wore masks, but campers did not. “This investigation adds to the body of evidence demonstrating that children of all ages are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection and, contrary to early reports, might play an important role in transmission,” write the study authors.

Reference: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report paper

Immune cells found in unexposed people

T cells that are prepared to attack SARS-CoV-2 exist in some people who have never been exposed to the virus. Researchers surveyed blood samples from around 100 people for T cells that react to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Reactive cells were found in 83% of people with COVID-19, as well as 35% of healthy blood donors. These cells might have been primed by past infections with related coronaviruses. We still don’t know whether these cells offer real-world protection against SARS-CoV-2.

Reference: Nature paper

Get more of Nature’s continuously updated selection of the must-read papers and preprints on COVID-19.

Features & opinion

Six lessons from astronomy’s embrace of cloud computing

The Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile is geared up to collect 20 terabytes per night as part of its 10-year Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST), once it becomes operational in 2022. Instead of setting up a computing infrastructure that would cost many millions, astronomers are putting their massive data sets into the cloud. The move opens up opportunities for research at smaller institutions. “I could set up a notebook in South Africa to run on the LSST Science Platform that had all the same tools as if I was in Princeton,” says project manager William O’Mullane. “All I’d need is a web browser.”

Nature | 7 min read

How to stop fooling yourself over statistics

Experimental psychologist Dorothy Bishop uses simulated data to teach her students how we can be led astray by our cognitive biases and faulty intuition. Sampling simulated data reveals how easy it is to find false results that seem statistically significant, and how small sample sizes can scupper an otherwise well-designed experiment.

Nature | 5 min read

A recovery plan for COVID-19 anxiety

Ecologist Fernando Maestre thought his good work–life balance before the pandemic made him less vulnerable to having poor mental health. But “I was wrong,” he says. After he was diagnosed with anxiety, he reassessed his approach to work, life and parenting to restore his health. His six-point plan includes postponing all non-essential work, setting up a schedule, reducing exposure to news and social media, focusing on the positive, exercising more and trying to live in the moment.

Nature | 5 min read

Image of the week

A 3D animation of a sperm moving in a corkscrew motion

Human sperm swim faster by flapping their tails on just one side and rotating around. Researchers used a high-speed 3D camera to capture the gamete’s 20–30 swimming strokes per second. What looks like boring side-to-side wiggling when observed in a dish is actually more of a precessing corkscrew motion. (Science | 2 min read) Reference: ScienceAdvances paper Polymaths-lab.com

Quote of the day

“Although adult beetles were easily eaten by frogs, 90% of swallowed beetles were excreted within 6 h (0.1–6.0 h) after being eaten and, surprisingly, were still alive.”

The aquatic beetle Regimbartia attenuata can swim right through a frog, found biologist Shinji Sugiura. (Current Biology paper) (Watch a video of it happening in The New York Times, if that’s what you’re into.)

What should you do if you stumble across a camera trap in the woods? Leave it undisturbed, of course — and, optionally, strike a glamorous pose.

Help this newsletter get a glow up by sending your feedback. Your comments are always welcome at briefing@nature.com.

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

With contributions by David Cyranoski

Updates & Corrections

  • Correction 11 August 2020: An earlier version of this article wrongly referred to Janssen Pharmaceutica as a Dutch company.

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