Daily briefing: Malaria vaccine shows early signs of promise

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U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks during a virtual Leaders Summit on Climate

Joe Biden addresses the audience during the US climate summit on 22 April.Credit: Al Drago/Getty

US pledges to slash climate emissions

The United States has pledged to halve greenhouse-gas emissions by 2030, compared with 2005 levels, and aim for net-zero emissions by 2050. US President Joe Biden announced the commitment as he opened a virtual climate summit that is being attended by 40 world leaders. The target is roughly in line with recent commitments by the European Union and others. “There’s a long way to go, but I’m more optimistic than I was a few months ago,” says climate analyst Bill Hare.

Nature | 5 min read

New commitments: Historic emissions, projected emissions and pledged emission reductions for the US, EU, UK and Japan.

Source: Climate Action Tracker

Notable quotable

“These systems don’t turn on a dime. The goal setting is the easy part…. The tough work is getting it done.”

Climate-policy researchers Morgan Bazilian and David Victor dig into how the United States can actually make good on its pledge to slash greenhouse-gas emissions. (The Conversation | 6 min read)

Glimmer of hope from malaria vaccine trial

A malaria vaccine called R21 has proved to be 77% effective at preventing the disease in children in a small, early trial. There is one other malaria vaccine — GlaxoSmithKline’s RTS,S vaccine — but this jab is the first to reach the World Health Organization's goal of at least 75% efficacy. R21 has been in the works for several years, and it informed the development of the Oxford–AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, which came out of the same group at the University of Oxford. Large-scale phase III trials to prove the vaccine’s safety and efficacy are still to come, but this offers hope for a disease that kills 1,200 people each day, mostly children under 5.

BBC | 4 min read

Read more: Building a better malaria vaccine (Nature | 12 min read, from 2019)

Reference: The Lancet preprint


In the year when the United Nations is holding the Food System Summit, the story of Nikolai Vavilov is particularly timely: it is a tale of a passionate and intrepid biologist who recognized the importance of cataloguing plant diversity for food security. Vavilov died of malnutrition in a Soviet prison for the crime of being a Mendelian geneticist. But his dream to set up a world seed bank to protect the genetic treasure of the world’s crop plants lives on.

Magdalena Skipper, Nature editor-in-chief

Nautil.us | 12 min read

COVID-19 coronavirus update

More than 1 million genomes shared

More than 1.2 million coronavirus genome sequences from 172 countries and territories have now been shared on GISAID — the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data. Sequence data have been crucial to scientists studying the origins of SARS-CoV-2, the epidemiology of COVID-19 outbreaks and the movement of viral variants across the planet. “You have a system where we can watch how the virus spreads through the world, and see if control measures and the vaccines still work,” says GISAID scientific adviser Sebastian Maurer-Stroh.

Nature | 4 min read

COLLABORATION IN THE TIME OF COVID. More than one million SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences have been shared on the GISAID platform.

Source: GISAID

Notable quotable

“Here’s the thing about an inferno: if you hose only one part of it, the rest will keep burning.”

World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus exhorts the countries and companies that control the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines to keep their promises and help to end the pandemic. (The New York Times | 6 min read)

Features & opinion

One of the world’s oldest experiments

Every few years, for 142 years, scientists have dug up a bottle of seeds from a secret location on the campus of Michigan State University. The Beal seed-viability experiment is an effort to find out how long seeds can lie dormant without losing their ability to germinate. Botanist William James Beal started the trial with 20 bottles; there are 4 left. Each generation of botanists at the university has passed the knowledge of the seeds’ hiding place to younger colleagues. “I think Professor Beal’s got the top experiment here,” says plant scientist Carol Baskin. “I wish he’d have buried more bottles.”

The New York Times | 8 min read

Futures: Hot buttered grubs

When space-time gets twisted like a giant rubber band, it affects everyone — even the staff of a backwoods municipal alternate-timeline-transfer station. Author Jordan Price ponders the possibilities in the latest short story for Nature’s Futures series.

Nature | 4 min read

Five best science books this week

Andrew Robinson’s pick of the top five science books to read this week includes pseudoscience, zero waste, and an action-adventure graphic novel featuring female scientists saving the world.

Nature | 3 min read

Video: Origami-inspired structures

Drawing inspiration from the art of origami, researchers have designed self-supporting structures that lock into place after being erected. “What is powerful with origami as an art form is that we know that from a 2D sheet of paper, you can fold any 3D shape,” says applied mathematician David Melancon. “So we have this enclosure made of rigid faces that is folded super, super compact. You inflate it… and then you can remove pressure and it stays there, deployed.”

Nature | 6 min watch

Go deeper with engineer Sigrid Adriaenssens in the Nature News & Views article.

Reference: Nature paper

Quote of the day

“I don’t want to undersell how tragic this experience has been…. but scientists love to find problems and solve them.”

Haematology researcher Alisa Wolberg responds to a ResearchGate survey that found most respondents are finding ways to stay productive despite enormous disruptions to scientific work. (Nature | 4 min read)

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-021-01106-8

Today, our tireless traveller Leif Penguinson is cooling off in a mountain stream in Ghandruk, Nepal. Can you find the penguin?

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I’ll be the winner if you share your opinion on this newsletter. Please send your feedback to briefing@nature.com.

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

With contributions by Smriti Mallapaty, John Pickrell, Ariana Remmel, Freda Kreier, Quirin Schiermeier

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