FBR’s Next Documentary, “Pat’s Story,” to Debut on Saturday

The Foundation for Biomedical Research’s "Pat's Story" is a 25-minute documentary about Pat Summitt, legendary head coach emeritus of the Tennessee Lady Vols basketball team, and her experience of living with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type. Pat and her son Tyler are bravely fighting Alzheimer’s by raising awareness of the continued need for Alzheimer’s research.

"Pat's Story" features an interview with Dr. Ron Petersen, Director of the Mayo Clinic’s Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, who talks about cutting-edge Alzheimer's breakthroughs that could help both Pat and others living with Alzheimer's.

Please tune in for the Tennessee premiere of "Pat's Story" on Saturday, March 28, at 1:00 p.m. on Knoxville's WATE (ABC Channel 6).

For a quick look at "Pat's Story," please click here.

Indiana’s Governor to Declare HIV Epidemic Health Emergency

It is expected today, March 26, that Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R) will declare a public health emergency in the southeastern region of the state to address an HIV epidemic there.  Since December, 72 people in five counties, most of them in Scott County, have tested positive for HIV.  According to an article in The Indianapolis Star, all of the cases are connected to intravenous drug use.  The article even states that one diagnosed patient may have spread the virus to 75 truck drivers passing through the area.

To learn more about this public health emergency, please click here.

Bill Strengthening Oregon’s State Open Records Law Signed by Governor

On Wednesday, March 18, Governor Kate Brown (D) signed Senate Bill 386 into law.

SB386 will strengthen Oregon’s freedom of information statute (FOIA) by making permanent an exemption from disclosure of personal identifying information of those in animal research at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU).  Prior to this new law, the exemption from state open records laws had to be renewed every five years in the legislature.

To learn more about your state's open records laws and to see what can be improved, please click here to read NABR's "FOIA in Your State" analysis.

‘Air Transport: No Cargo, No Cure,’ New Section on NABR Website

NABR has added an important new section to its website titled, Air Transport: No Cargo, No Cure.

Opponents to animal research have engaged in tactics of harassment, protests, and public smear campaigns in an effort to end the transportation of vital animal models involved in studies worldwide, which stand to better both human and animal health. A lack of availability of certain research animal models could mean the future of medical progress is jeopardized. That’s why medical research organizations have begun speaking out regarding the imperative nature of research animal transportation.

To read official statements from such organizations, as well as to learn more about the safe transport of research animals by air and why it is such a critical issue, please see the resources provided at the Air Transport: No Cargo, No Cure page. If you have comments or suggested additions for this section, please let us know at info@NABR.org.

Another Federal Court Upholds the AETA

On Wednesday, yet another federal court upheld the constitutionality of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), this time in a case where two animal rights extremists with a long history of targeting individuals involved in research are charged with violating the AETA for allegedly releasing mink from a farm in Illinois and conspiring to release foxes from another farm in Illinois.

This latest blow to the animal rights narrative that the AETA is unconstitutional represents a major setback to attorneys representing extremists, who have for years attempted to find a court willing to invalidate the law.

Judge Amy J. St. Eve, hearing the case for the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, was clear that the “AETA is directed at property damage, threats, and violence toward animal enterprises.”  She disagreed with the arguments of Kevin Johnson, a.k.a. Kevin Olliff, and Tyler Lang that the law criminalizes free speech, finding that the law’s history and rules of construction “unambiguously indicate that Congress did not intend for the AETA to infringe upon protected First Amendment speech.”

The court also rejected the argument that the law “targets animal rights activists for arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement” determining that “the AETA strikes a balance between protecting the First Amendment rights of activists and punishing the criminal conduct of extremists who target animal enterprises.”

The two extremists who are being charged under the AETA have a long history of targeting individuals involved in research in southern California and in 2011 and 2012, several research facilities obtained restraining orders against Tyler Lang for allegedly harassing their employees.  The two previously pleaded guilty to state charges of “possession of burglary tools” after wire cutters and other burglary tools were found during a traffic stop.  Tyler Lang is currently out on bail pending the outcome of the case, but his alleged accomplice, Kevin Johnson, remains in prison.

The judge’s decision that the law is constitutional is important to NABR members, as the AETA is a critical tool for law enforcement and is the only federal law specifically designed to protect individuals involved in research from threats, acts of vandalism, property damage, criminal trespass, harassment and intimidation.

The AETA was enacted by Congress in 2006 in response to threats and violence towards individuals involved in research and since its enactment, the frequency and severity of illegal actions in the U.S. has decreased significantly.

For more information about the AETA and the legal challenges to its constitutionality, please visit: http://www.nabr.org/history-of-the-legal-challenges-to-the-aeta/.

 

House Appropriations Subcommittee Hears NIH Director Testimony

On Tuesday, March 3, NIH Director Francis Collins appeared before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education, and Related Agencies to discuss details of the agency’s FY 2016 funding request. He was accompanied by National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci and other institute directors.

A webcast of the hearing may be found at the subcommittee’s website and Dr. Collins’ written testimony is available here.

Harold Varmus to Step Down as Head of NIH’s National Cancer Institute

Dr. Harold Varmus announced today that he will be stepping down as the Director of the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Cancer Institute (NCI) after nearly 5 years at the post.  He will leave NCI at the end of March.  Douglas Lowy, NIH’s Deputy Director and long-time NCI intramural researcher, will become acting director.

Varmus, who won the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, served as NIH’s director from 1993-1999 and returned in 2010 to oversee NCI’s work.  He plans to return to New York City to continue research into cancer care.

To read more news about Dr. Varmus and his resignation, please click here.  You can also find Varmus’ letter to NCI staff here.  NIH’s press release can be read here.

PETA Report of U.S. Research Animal Statistics Attracts Media Attention

Three staff members from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) authored a “Brief Report” titled “Trends in Animal Use at US Research Facilities” in the current issue of the Journal of Medical Ethics (subscription only), which has attracted attention from some scientific and other media. In short, a PETA “study” has found the use of vertebrate research animals by 21 of the top 25 institutions funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has increased approximately 73% over a 15-year period (1997-2012), driven primarily by increases in the use of mice.

While a significant increase in research mice would not be surprising during this timeframe as genetically-modified rodent models were developed and research opportunities proliferated, PETA’s method for gauging the increase is questionable. Using assurance documents filed by NIH grantees every 4 to 5 years, obtained by PETA under FOIA, the authors constructed an animal use “average” and “total” by species based on average daily inventory estimates provided during three time periods (1997-2003, 2000-2008 and 2008-2012). In a written response to the study provided to Science (subscription required), NIH’s Office of Extramural Research cautioned that using the inventory data to track animal numbers is “inappropriate” because the data don’t show usage, but are only a “snapshot” that NIH uses to make sure institutions have adequate veterinary care. Moreover, more than 1000 institutions have assurances to use animals and including only the 25 largest could be misleading, especially because some provide mice to other institutions.

In any event, it’s not possible to evaluate PETA’s averages without raw data and knowing whether they made accurate assumptions and categorizations. Also, there are obvious errors in the paper, such as citing an inflated number of USDA-covered species used for 2010 (later corrected by USDA). Some assertions are made without evidence and in other cases references listed do not support the statements made by authors. PETA calls the increase “staggering,” despite noting in their journal paper that the “sizeable growth” in animal use due to genetically modified (GM) mice has previously been reported.

Speaking of Research posted an excellent response on the subject, Animal Research Successes Spur Growth in Science…but PeTA Can only Complain. Some of the media outlets that have covered this story include CBS News, NBC News, the Chronicle for Higher Education, BuzzFeed and Yahoo Health.

Editorial: Increase in Animal Research Leads to New Treatments, Cures, and Better Lives

Yesterday, February 25, Speaking of Research published a piece entitled, “Animal research successes spur growth in science…but PeTA can only complain.”

In his piece, David Jentsch answers a report by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) which notes that the number of animals involved in research has grown by over 70% during the past 15 years.  Jentsch discusses how this increase is due to an acceleration of innovation and discovery in unlocking many of the world’s health questions.  He writes, “Thanks to the researchers that occupy laboratories around the world, scientific discoveries are coming faster than ever, and all of us benefit. It’s not just that there is more research being done – it’s that the impact of the science is better than ever thanks to more advanced technologies, accumulating knowledge of how the body works and more advanced animals models, including ones that mimic human disease processes in increasingly sophisticated ways that promote new discoveries and new opportunities to develop novel drugs.”

“What is the consequence of the growth in animal research? The answer is: new treatments, new cures, less sickness and longer, healthier lives,” says Jentsch.

To read Jentsch’s submission to Speaking of Research, please click here.

In Case You Missed It: Chimpanzee Retirement: Facts, Myths, and Motivation

A few weeks ago, Allyson J. Bennett posted an excellent piece at Speaking of Research, titled Chimpanzee Retirement: Facts, Myths and Motivation.

It contains factual information about chimpanzees living at National Primate Research Centers and is accompanied by some terrific photos. Dr. Bennett points out very well the problem with misrepresentations seen recently in the media, such as this CNN.com piece, and elsewhere about chimpanzees’ current housing and care at research facilities.

Please click here to take a look.

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