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 info@nabr.org.

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.

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!

New Drug in Development that Could Permanently Lower Cholesterol

Researchers are working on a treatment that could help millions of Americans achieve better lifelong health. Recent studies with mice have shown that a new injection disables a certain gene, resulting in lower cholesterol levels and a reduced risk for heart disease. This development is especially significant since heart disease is the United States’ most expensive disease.

In 2005, researchers found that people born with natural mutations involving this gene have very low cholesterol levels. The preliminary drug mimics this naturally-occurring mutation and prevents the body from making cholesterol-enabling proteins. Compared to existing cholesterol-lowering drugs that are extremely expensive and require multiple injections every two to four weeks, this new one-time treatment offers a radically different alternative, which has been more effective in trials than the existing antibody drugs. It also results in few to no side-effects, which is a huge bonus for people who are sometimes sensitive to certain drugs.

This injection treatment would permanently alter a person’s DNA so before it can be applied to humans, researchers must continue to test its safety. These mice studies seem very promising, according to Lorenz Mayr from the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. However, human trials are still at least a decade away, and in the meantime animal models are propelling this research forward.

New Federal Legislation Would Require Broad Reporting of Animal Use Data

Representative Ken Calvert (R-CA) has introduced H.R. 816, the Federal Accountability in Chemical Testing (FACT) Act. The bill would amend the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM) Authorization Act of 2000 and would add a requirement that federal agencies must “include a description of the progress on the development, validation, acceptance, and utilization of alternative test methods (including animal use data by species, number, and test type) for toxicological testing conducted, supported, or required.” In short, Calvert’s bill would require the addition of animal census information for all research species (including rodents) to be included in the biannual ICCVAM report. The legislation would appear to represent an additional reporting requirement for federal agencies. Agencies affected include: USDA, DOD, DOE, Department of Interior, DOT, EPA, FDA, NIH, OSHA and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. The impact of this legislation likely extends beyond federal agencies, as a number of them require animal testing to be conducted outside the agency.

The introduction of the bill was stirred by the White Coat Waste Project (WCW), an animal activist organization that aims to end the use of animals in federally funded research. WCW is engaging with Republican members of Congress by claiming taxpayers could save money by eliminating animal research at the federal level. According to WCW’s website, its approach is to “drain the swamp: cut government spending that hurts animals and taxpayers.”

At the time of this writing, the bill has acquired 13 cosponsors: Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA), Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Mike Bishop (R-MI), Dina Titus (D-NV), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Tom Marino (R-PA), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Julia Brownley (D-CA). The bill has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee and will remain alive until the end of the legislative session in December of 2018. For the full bill text, click here.

USDA’s APHIS Removes Enforcement Action Database; Information Still Available Through FOIA

UPDATED - February 9, 2017

On Friday, February 3, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) notified stakeholders that during the last year it had “conducted a comprehensive review of the information it posts on its website” and “will remove from its website inspection reports, regulatory correspondence, research facility annual reports, and enforcement records that have not received final adjudication.”  The move impacts information related to research facilities subject to the Animal Welfare Act and entities subject to the Horse Protection Act.

APHIS indicated that such records can be requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and will be released when authorized and in a manner consistent with the FOIA and Privacy Act.  NABR members attempting to access information on the APHIS website will notice changes including deactivation of the Animal Care Search Tool known as ACIS. The only information currently available on the website is a list by name and state of licensed and registered facilities.

The APHIS website changes have been widely reported by news media as an “abrupt removal” of information and animal rights groups have speculated that the changes may be driven by the new administration.

However, it is more likely the changes are related to a federal lawsuit filed by individuals and organizations involved with the horse industry in a February 2016 filing against USDA in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas (Contender Farms vs. USDA). The lawsuit alleges that APHIS’ publication of enforcement actions is unlawful, misleading and falsely identifies thousands of people who never received notice of an alleged violation, never had a USDA complaint filed against them and were never afforded the opportunity for a formal hearing as “violators.”

In reviewing the information currently available to NABR, the net result of this action appears to be that all of the information available on the USDA website related to inspection and annual reports will still be available to anyone who files a FOIA request with the personally identifying information redacted. FOIA requests can be filed here: https://efoia-pal.usda.gov/palMain.aspx.

UPDATE - February 9, 2017

NABR supports transparency for information that serves the public good. Historically we have found USDA enforcement data extremely valuable in tracking and analyzing animal use trends in research. We hope the USDA can strike the proper balance between protecting personal privacy and informing the public as expeditiously as possible.

NABR will continue to report as new information becomes available. Please continue to check your email, visit www.NABR.org or follow us on Twitter.

Mice Playing Important Role in Promising New Tuberculosis Vaccine Trial

A new tuberculosis (TB) vaccine is showing promise in mice trials and if successful could be the first new TB vaccine since 1921, reports Science Daily. “Biobeads,” natural polyesters that non-TB bacteria assemble into small spheres, are used by the vaccine as a vehicle to deliver antigens from the TB bacterium into the immune system. In earlier studies, these E. coli biobeads provoked immune responses in mice that could potentially protect against TB. 

According to principal investigator Axel Heiser, PhD, “We saw evidence of cell-mediated immunity with the potential to be protective against TB. Future studies will include a vaccination followed by challenge with TB to show protection, and also the development of more efficient production and purification methods for the vaccine.” Using these mycobacterial biobeads could provide a new, cost-efficient alternative to live vaccines by creating a platform for combining large antigenic capabilities without the use of infectious material.   
 
The news of a potentially new TB vaccine for global public health is very noteworthy, especially for low and middle-income countries. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 10.4 million people contracted TB in 2015, resulting in 1.8 million deaths worldwide. The World Health Organization says that nearly half a million of the new cases were multidrug-resistant, with 95% of the deaths occurring in low and middle-income countries. 
 
The availability and effectiveness of a new TB vaccine would be a tremendous advancement for public health worldwide. The nearly century-old vaccine has numerous shortcomings, one of which is possibly creating the infection in immunocompromised patients.  
 
To read news coverage on this exciting discovery, please click here.
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