BREAKING NEWS: White House Announces Specifics of Cancer Moonshot Task Force

As you’ll recall, President Barack Obama announced during his January 12 State of the Union address the creation of an initiative to make stronger strides towards curing cancer.  Today, the White House released specific details on how this “moonshot,” as the President put it, would take shape.

The White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force, a collection of over thirteen science and research oriented entities, will be established within the Office of the Vice President and be funded and managed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  The Task Force will work in conjunction with many departments and agencies to accelerate the understanding of cancer, improve patient access, encourage the development of innovative treatments, and to identify and address any unnecessary regulatory burdens that hinder research.

To learn more about the White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force, please see news coverage in The Hill or click here to read today’s release from the White House.

Pro-Animal Research Op-Ed Featured Today in The Hill

Just this morning, the Capitol Hill newspaper and news site The Hill featured an op-ed discussing the critical importance of humane animal research in neuroscience and other fields of research.  The piece was penned by Hollis Cline, President of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) and Hahn Professor of Neuroscience at The Scripps Research Institute, and Mar Sanchez.  Sanchez is associate professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University, affiliate scientist in the Division of Developmental and Cognitive Neuroscience at Yerkes National Research Primate Center, and chair of the SfN’s Committee on Animals in Research (CAR).

Cline and Sanchez set the record straight by discussing the influential role that animal research has played in studying how the brain works so that revolutionary advancements could be brought to fruition.  Breakthroughs in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, the development of brain-controlled prosthetic devices for lost limbs and life-improving medications for those suffering from schizophrenia all owe their success to research with animals.  The authors even go further by noting that animal models have been the basis for nearly every medical discovery in the past century and cite NABR’s Top 25 Most Prescribed Drugs.

Animal research is an undeniably important component to medical discovery as Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), noted at the 2015 SfN Annual Meeting when he said, “We have to continually make the case for how valuable it has been to study animals in order to learn almost everything we know about how biology works.” He continued on to affirm the importance of non-human primates and other animals.

Today’s feature in The Hill follows a letter sent to Collins from Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and 27 other Democrats calling for the retirement of primates from a Poolesville, MD NIH research facility.

To read today’s piece in The Hill, please click here.

FBR Statement on End to Chimpanzee Research

The Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) learned with concern of the recent NIH decision to retire all NIH-owned chimpanzees, ending its support for research on the species. Given the cost and difficulty of moving over 300 chimpanzees, who are currently well-situated in established colonies and receiving the highest quality of care, FBR believes it would make more sense to let the animals remain in place, which will have the additional benefit of maintaining a study model should the need arise. The decision to retire even the reserve colony seems to run contrary to the Institute of Medicine’s report, which stated “chimpanzees may prove uniquely important to unraveling the mystery of diseases that are unknown today”.

To read how chimpanzees have helped medical research, please click here.

BREAKING NEWS: Closure of NIH Chimp Program Could Have Public Health Implications, FBR Warns

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is winding down its chimpanzee research program, with its remaining animals being moved to sanctuaries. The organization retired many of its chimps two years ago but has kept a small population for certain research of high public health importance, and observers warn eliminating that resource could have serious implications. "Given NIH’s primary mission to protect public health, it seems surprising," says Frankie Trull, President of the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR).

 

To read Nature's report on this breaking news, please click here.

Michael Lauer to Serve as NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research

Michael S. Lauer, MD, is to be the new NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research, replacing Sally Rockey, PhD. He is expected to assume this new position in the coming weeks.

From 2009 to the present, Lauer served as Director of the Division of Cardiovascular Sciences at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), where he began his career at NIH in 2007. He was most recently named the NIH Co-Chair for the President's Precision Medicine Initiative. Dr. Lauer has been actively involved and a strong advocate of human subjects protection. He is also very familiar with animal research issues given the reliance on animal models of many NHLBI-supported programs. As NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research, the Office of Laboratory Animal Research (OLAW) will report to him.

For more background, please see the complete appointment announcement here.

Dogs on the Hunt for Cancer Cure in Humans

Earlier this week, Chemical & Engineering News featured a wonderful look into the important role that animal research, specifically that with canine models, play in improving human and veterinary help.  The article, “Could Fido Fetch a Cure?” takes a close look at dogs with cancer and the valuable insight they are providing to help cure the disease.

After receiving the diagnosis that Moses, a six-year-old black Labrador retriever, had lymphoma, he was enrolled by his family in a clinical trial at the University of Missouri where he would be treated with new class of chemotherapy drugs.  These new agents, called indenoisoquinolines, were developed through a collaboration between the United States’ top veterinary schools and the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium (COTC).  The article notes, “running clinical trials on dogs with cancer is a win-win. Trials may save the lives of beloved family pets, while the data collected can be used to inform drug development for human patients.”  Thanks to their efforts, Moses is doing well.

Cancer is not exclusively a human problem and our four-legged friends are helping researchers improve therapy.  To learn more about this effort, please read “Could Fido Catch a Cure?” by clicking here.

New Ebola Vaccine Showing Promise in Monkeys

Late last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that researchers at the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) are working on a vaccine that has shown to protect macaques from infection from the Ebola virus within seven days.

Known as VSV-EBOV or rVSV-ZEBOV, the vaccine is the same one that was also reported by the LA Times to be effective in human trials in Guinea.  Andrea Marzi, coauthor of the study published in Science, told the newspaper that the next objective of the study was to observe whether the vaccine could work as a treatment for Ebola after exposure to the virus.

To learn more about the study, please read the report in Science and the LA Times’ coverage of the discovery.

Animal Activist Pressure Results in House Appropriations Report Language

A months-long, multi-pronged campaign by a variety of animal rights groups against some National Institutes of Health (NIH)-supported research projects involving nonhuman primates has resulted in a reference made in the report accompanying the House Committee on Appropriations bill for FY 2016. Included with many other comments and issues raised in the 263-page report, is this paragraph:

Review of Maternal Deprivation Studies.—The Committee is aware that prominent experts and animal advocacy organizations have raised concerns about the scientific and ethical justifications for maternal deprivation studies involving baby monkeys being conducted in both intramural and extramural NIH funded laboratories. The Committee is further aware that the NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare opened an investigation in response to these allegations on September 9, 2014. The investigations consulted with research investigators, the USDA, nonhuman primate center scientists, veterinarians, animal care staff and other relevant experts. As a result of the investigation, several modifications were made to the protocol and several procedures removed. Accordingly, the Committee requests NIH to conduct a review of its ethical policies and processes with respect to nonhuman primate research subjects, in consultation with outside experts, to ensure it has appropriate justification for animal research protocols and to provide an update on these efforts in the fiscal year 2017 budget request.

NIH Announces Sally Rockey’s Departure

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Deputy Director for Extramural Research Sally Rockey, PhD, will be leaving her post to become the Director of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR). In a June 11 announcement, NIH Director Francis Collins said, “On the one hand, I’m very happy for Sally and proud that she will be bringing her considerable skills to the leadership of this new and important endeavor…. On the other hand, I will greatly miss her wisdom, courage, and creativity as we tackle the knotty issues associated with extramural grant funding, especially in this particularly stark budget climate. Sally has done an outstanding job of steering the NIH through many challenging times and we will be forever in her debt.” Dr. Collins said that Dr. Rockey will continue at NIH until mid-September “while we mount a vigorous search for her successor.”

Authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, FFAR operates as a non-profit corporation seeking and accepting private donations in order to fund research activities that focus on problems of national and international significance. Congress provided $200 million for the foundation, which must be matched by non-federal funds as projects are identified and approved.

NABR Releases Analysis of Animal Rights Federal FOIA Requests in FY14

You have received a FOIA request.  You know what they want from your research institution.  But do you know what animal rights groups are looking for from other research institutions?  Do you know how many such requests were filed at federal agencies?  Do you know which groups are the most frequent requesters?  Do you know how much these requests cost the agencies?  Now you will.  Following on the heels of NABR’s successful analysis of animal rights FOIA requests in 2013, NABR has released “A Review of Animal Rights FOIA Requests FY14.”

This is an in-depth report of each and every Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made in FY14 to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Institutes of Health by animal rights groups that you won’t find anywhere else.  NABR’s experts have broken these requests down in an easy to read format to quickly understand the commonly requested information, frequency of requests by party, and an examination of the cost to NIH and USDA.

As animal rights groups continue to rely on FOIA to gather intelligence about research institutions for targeting purposes, it is important to understand their tactics and the true impact of such requests.  Please download “A Review of Animal Rights FOIA Requests FY14” by clicking below and share it with your staff and FOIA offices.

 
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