BREAKING NEWS: Governor Sonny Perdue Confirmed as Agriculture Secretary

This afternoon Governor Sonny Perdue was confirmed by the Senate to be U.S. Secretary of Agriculture by a vote of 87-11-1. Prior to the full Senate’s vote, Perdue was vetted by the Senate Agriculture Committee on March 30. His confirmation passed through the committee with only Senator Kirsten Gillibrand voting no. Perdue has been a relatively uncontroversial Cabinet pick with Republicans and Democrats being on board with his confirmation.

As Agriculture Secretary, Perdue will head a department that oversees a broad area of programs from crop insurance to nutrition, forestry, rural development, and international trade. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also houses the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) which is responsible for enforcing the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), the federal law that oversees the humane use of animals in biomedical research programs.

Perdue is a veterinarian by training, the owner of several small agribusinesses and he was also the governor of Georgia from 2003-2011. Perdue has previously stated that reducing regulatory burden will be one of his goals at the helm of the USDA. Please continue to check your email, follow us on Twitter, or visit NABR.org for the latest news coverage on Secretary Perdue’s confirmation.

Media Outlet Takes Animal Rights Group to Task

“Just who is the group protesting live animal training in Fargo,” asked KVLY in Fargo, North Dakota on April 6, 2017. In a report televised by the news outlet, Valley News questioned the animal rights group protesting lifesaving trauma training at North Dakota State University (NDSU).

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has sought to end such training and education at NDSU because it involved the use of animals. PCRM even erected a billboard questioning NDSU’s use of pigs for these programs just last year. KVLY asked the question, “who is the PCRM,” and investigated whether PCRM practices “responsible medicine.” According to the news report, PCRM promoted the use of the Heimlich maneuver as a way to save drowning victims, something the American Heart Association notes as “unnecessary and potentially dangerous.”

To watch the news coverage mentioned above, click here and feel free to share it with your friends, family, colleagues, and on social media.

Recording of Last Week’s NABR Webinar is Now Available Online

Did you miss last week’s NABR webinar? Want to watch it again? Interested in hosting a lunch-and-learn opportunity for your staff?  NABR’s April 11 webinar, "USDA Animal Search Tool – Deactivated: The Impact on the Research Community" is now available online for on-demand viewing.

Please click here to view "USDA Animal Search Tool – Deactivated: The Impact on the Research Community." You will need your NABR members-only log-in credentials to watch the presentation.

You can find all of NABR’s past webinars, including this one, in an online library in the Members Only section of our website.

If you have problems logging in or have any questions about the webinar, please contact us at [email protected]

Government-Funded Researchers Discover Experimental Cure for Marburg Virus with Monkeys

Last week the National Institutes of Health (NIH) made a remarkable announcement about research into cures for Marburg and Ravn viruses, both relatives of the Ebola virus.

MR191-N, a monoclonal antibody derived from a human Marburg survivor, was administered by NIH-sponsored researchers to rhesus monkeys and guinea pigs and showed 100% effectiveness in curing late-stage, lethal-level infections of these viruses. According to the study two doses of the MR-191-N monoclonal antibody was able to provide 100% protection if given up to 5 days after infection. In contrast, other experimental treatments required daily doses for 7 or 14 days beginning closer to the time of infection.

Marburg and Ravn can resemble Ebola in symptoms and outcomes and medicine needs effective treatment and prophylactic measures. Hopefully these new findings prove effective in filling those voids.

To read more about this groundbreaking discovery, please click here.

White House Calls for $1.2 Billion Elimination from NIH Grants

The White House has announced that President Donald Trump is calling for $1.232 billion in funding cuts from National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant programs. As reported in last week’s NABR Update, the President released his budget proposal for funding the federal government on March 16. To offset a major increase in defense and border security funds, Trump has identified ways to decrease nondefense discretionary spending in FY 17. Included in this supplementary proposal are $1.182 billion in reductions to NIH research grants and $50 million in the elimination of Institutional Development Award (IDeA) grants for FY 17.

Trump’s proposed cuts would undermine the FY 17 spending bill that the Senate Appropriations Committee approved last summer, which included $34.1 billion in funding for the NIH.

Several Members of Congress are not optimistic about these cuts occurring, as the fiscal year has already begun. Representative Tom Cole (R-OK), chairman of the House Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee, told CQ, “It's a little late in the process. We've closed out our bills.”

The government is currently operating on a continuing resolution set to expire on April 28, 2017. To avoid a government shutdown, Congress must approve a budget bill before this date.

18% Cut to NIH, 21% Cut to USDA in President’s Proposed Budget; Regulatory Reform Major Focus

President Donald Trump (R) released his FY 2018 federal budget this morning, and included in the proposal is an almost 20% decrease in federal funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Spending for NIH would decrease from the currently appropriated $31.7 billion to $25.9 billion. The budget states that “major reorganization” and structural changes would occur within the NIH to ensure that resources are refocused on high priority research and training. The President also aims to reduce regulatory burden throughout various federal government agencies, including the NIH, in which administrative costs would be reduced and federal contributions to research funding would be rebalanced. The budget states very clearly that the President plans to remove unnecessary and costly regulations, although it is not yet clear which regulations pertaining to biomedical research would be affected. At this afternoon's White House Press Briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer stated that the NIH must "focus on efficiencies and doing what we do better." To accomplish this, he used combining facilities as an example.

“America First - A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” would reduce funding to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from $84.1 billion to $69 billion, based on the President’s plan to ‘eliminate programs that are duplicative or have limited impact on public health and well-being.” Plans for HHS funding call for reforming public health programs and reforming the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) via block grant programs that would give states more power in addressing statewide public health challenges. Additionally, the proposal would make adjustments to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) initiatives, and includes “a package of administrative actions designed to achieve regulatory efficiency and speed the development of safe and effective medical products.”

Funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture would be reduced by 21 percent, from $22.6 billion to $17.9 billion. The budget would also make major funding cuts in other federal agencies including the U.S. Department of State, Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency. Trump’s primary goal for the FY 2018 budget is to increase federal defense spending by $54 billion, with targeted reductions in other agencies to offset this cost.

The federal government is currently operating on a Continuing Resolution (CR) that is set to expire on April 28, 2017.

Next, the budget proposal will be sent to the Hill, where the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will review it thoroughly. Click here to read the President’s budget blueprint.

New Treatment for Epilepsy Discovered with Animals Shows Promise in NIH-Funded Study

A new drug for epilepsy has recently shown promise in clinical trials.  In a study supported by the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), researchers found that the drug lorcaserin significantly decreases seizures in zebrafish with the same genetic mutation that causes Dravet syndrome. Dravet syndrome is rare disorder that causes frequents, severe, and drug resistant seizures and developmental delays in children. Other complications include chronic infections, delayed language and speech, and disruptions of the autonomic nervous system. Sadly, the mortality rate for kids with Dravet syndrome is approximately 15%-20%.

Thanks to its success in zebrafish, studies of lorcaserin have advanced to patients and according to a news release, was administered to five children with Dravet syndrome. All five experienced an initial decrease in the frequency of seizures with no serious side effects.  Most notably one child who had multiple seizures daily did not suffer any seizures for two weeks during the study.

This new drug could be a lifesaver and the importance of epilepsy research cannot be understated. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, three million people suffer from epilepsy in the United States alone and there are 150,000 new cases every year.  One-third of those with epilepsy are forced to live with the seizures because there is no treatment that works for them.

To read more about this exciting development, please click here.

“We Wanted Them to Live in Fear”: Animal Rights Activist Admits to Bombing

Rodney Coronado, once an activist for the Animal Liberation Front, last week admitted to the Lansing State Journal that he was behind the 1992 bombing of the office of a Michigan State University animal science professor. Richard Aulerich, who was specifically targeted, was studying environmental impacts on mink reproduction. Coronado targeted Aulerich’s laboratory because he thought the study was being supported by the fur industry. “I won’t sugar coat it,” he said to the State Journal. “We were about psychological warfare. We wanted researchers like Aulerich never to know when they came to work and opened their office door whether there had been an attack. We wanted them to live in fear.”

According to the article, Coronado fled after the attack and was on the run for over a year. Police eventually caught up with him and he agreed to plead guilty to aiding and abetting arson in exchange for having several other charges dropped. He spent over four years in prison.

Coronado’s bomb destroyed decades of research and caused over $1 million in damages.

This bombing happened fourteen years before enactment of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) in 2006. To read recent news coverage about Coronado and the Michigan State bombing, please click here.

Registration is Open for NABR’s April Webinar!

When you received the news earlier this month that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) removed from its website “inspection reports, regulatory correspondence, research facility annual reports, and enforcement records,” you most likely and understandably had a few questions. What happened? Why? How does this impact me and my institution? What now?

Although some of the data is back online, USDA’s action will certainly impact registered research facilities and licensed dealers who supply animals to research facilities. Join NABR on Tuesday, April 11 for our next exclusive webinar that will examine the current status of the database and how it may affect your institution and animal rights activity. NABR’s staff will share expert analysis including examples of how NABR uses information in the database to provide advice and support to institutions like yours. You will get an in-depth look at the USDA’s database, the information contained, and learn how you can make sense of the tremendous amount of data contained within.

Due to its timely nature, this webinar is expected to fill up fast — reserve your spot and register today!

BREAKING: Some USDA Documents Back Online

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has reported that some of the enforcement actions documents from the Animal Care Information Service (ACIS) have been reposted to the agency’s website.

As NABR reported, on February 3 USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) removed from its website “inspection reports, regulatory correspondence, research facility annual reports, and enforcement records that have not received final adjudication.” Several animal rights groups, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the Beagle Freedom Project (BFP), Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), Born Free USA, Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and an Animal Law & Policy Fellow at Harvard Law School filed a lawsuit against the department demanding that the database be restored. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) was preparing to file a lawsuit. Just this week, 101 members of the House of Representatives wrote to President Donald Trump (R) expressing concerns with the removal of the database requesting that it be reinstated.

To read USDA’s statement regarding the restoration of the database, please click here.

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