Scientific Groups Release White Paper on the Critical Role of Nonhuman Primates in Medical Research

The Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) announced today the release of the white paper, The Critical Role of Nonhuman Primates in Medical Research. The white paper is a collaboration between FBR and eight premier scientific groups: the American Academy of Neurology, the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, the American Physiological Society, the American Society for Microbiology, the American Transplant Foundation, the Endocrine Society, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology and the Society for Neuroscience.

The white paper highlights the essential role NHPs historically have and continue to play in finding treatments for serious and life-altering conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, Zika virus, HIV/AIDS and Parkinson’s disease.

To learn more about how research with NHPs is contributing to lifesaving cures for people, please download the white paper, The Critical Role of Nonhuman Primates in Medical Research or visit fbresearch.org.

The Undeniable Truth: Lab Animals Are Helping Our Pets

You may have already seen a recent blog post by the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) that showcases just one of the many important missions of biomedical research: saving endangered species. From in vitro fertilization to helping stop the spread of disease in the wild, animal research is working to make sure that endangered and threatened species of animals live on for generations to come. But what is animal research and testing doing to help our pets at home? FBR took a closer look at that question in a story posted on their website yesterday.

Vaccines, cancer treatments, and anxiety medications, for example, were developed through animal research and improve the health not only of people, but companion  dogs and cats. Cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs and their tumors are very similar to those found in people. Clinical trials with dogs and cats have yielded valuable data to test the effectiveness of drugs and treatment regimens. In fact, more and more pet owners are enrolling their companions in clinical trials.

But there’s more. Drugs like Prozac developed for people, through studies with rats, mice, and dogs, are effective in alleviating anxiety in dogs. Studied in rodents, pigs, and primates, Rapamycin, the commonly prescribed anti-rejection medication for humans, is now given to dogs for improved heart health. Cats with hyperthyroid disease are treated with radioiodine – a common treatment for human thyroid disease.

Vaccinations are essential in ensuring the future health of both people and animals. Back in 1885, Louis Pasteur developed a rabies vaccine with rabbits. In 1982, researchers studying dogs were able to create the vaccine against canine parvovirus (often referred to as parvo), saving the lives of countless puppies. Vaccine development for animal-specific diseases often offer invaluable information in the hunt to rid the world of human disease, as well. Given the fact that feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is very similar in structure to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), studies in FIV provide insights which could inform the development of an HIV vaccine.

It’s very clear that without animal research scientists and veterinarians would not be armed with the knowledge necessary to improve the health of both wild and companion animals. Please take a moment to read FBR’s latest installment on animal research helping animals and share it with your family, friends, colleagues, and on social media. Feel free to share your thoughts in the blog section on FBR’s site.

Florida Judge Rules Primate Breeding Facility Approvals Did Not Violate Sunshine Law

A Hendry County judge has ruled against an animal rights group suing over the county's handling of monkey breeding farms. The Animal Legal Defense Fund, on behalf of three county residents, filed a lawsuit alleging county officials violated the Florida Sunshine Law by permitting two primate breeding companies to build or expand facilities in its jurisdiction.

Judge James Sloan ruled the county did not violate state open records laws when it met with officials representing the companies. The judge said Sunshine Laws only apply to boards and commissions, not the staff that work for those elected bodies.  “We are pleased with Judge Sloan’s ruling upholding our constant assertions that Hendry County did not violate Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Law. Our legal team is to be commended, especially County Attorney Mark Lapp,” says Charles Chapman, County Administrator. “Hendry County continues to stand by the rights provided to our property owners contained within the language of our comprehensive plan and land development code.”

The case has attracted local media attention.  One report said about 30 spectators, including independent journalist Jane Velez-Mitchell, attended the first day of the bench trail.

Lupus: How Animal Research and Testing Saved Her Life

We’ve all heard it many times before: research and the knowledge gained from animal models has saved countless lives. Thanks to the efforts of the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) we get to hear one particular story from someone involved in biomedical research.

In the first segment of FBR’s “Share Your Story” series, Jordana Lenon, the public information and outreach specialist for both the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center and the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, shares her experience with lupus. When months of troubling yet unexplained symptoms became severe enough to land her in the hospital, the diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus soon followed.

Animal research – in part with rhesus macaque monkeys at her own workplace – saved her life in 2011. The once fatal auto-immune disease can be crippling to its victims and destroy cells, tissue, and organs in the body. Jordana describes how a drug she takes to control the disease, Mycophenolate mofetil, or MMF, a mainstay immunosuppressant was developed using mice, rats, dogs, and monkeys in the 1990’s. Today, lupus is primarily studied in mice, some rats, and rhesus monkeys. Veterinary research with dogs is also important as they suffer from arthritis and lupus, as well. Thanks to data gained from these models, Jordana now lives what she describes as a fairly normal life.

Please take a moment to read Jordana’s story. If you’d like to share how animal research and testing has positively impacted your life, please contact FBR at info@fbresearch.org or call (202) 457-0654.

Take a Look into Zika Research in a Primate Lab

Because of the nature of their work and the threats to their security from terrorists and animal rights extremists, many labs around the world conducting important animal research are very cautious about allowing outsiders inside for a visit. Until now. The reporters at STAT have just provided the public an insider’s view of work being conducted at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in the race to defeat one of the world’s most fearful viruses: Zika.

Yesterday’s report highlights the urgent speed at which researchers, with primates, are rushing to find a vaccine for the Zika virus. Time is of the essence and these critical protocols are being fast-tracked to learn everything there is to know about Zika. Readers are introduced to the safety precautions, enrichment stimulants, and a first-hand description of the procedures involved in these protocols. If you’ve ever wanted to step into a primate lab, yesterday’s article in STAT will give you a very well detailed and explained experience.

Please take a moment to read yesterday’s article about this very important research and please share it with your family, friends, colleagues, and on social media.

Researchers Hope Studies with Monkeys Yield Vaccines for HIV, Other Viruses

The mythical opening of Pandora’s box resulted in the release of diseases, many of which science has conquered and found new and innovative treatments to manage them.  Once of great concern, Polio, Measles, Typhoid fever, and Yellow fever, are now no longer worrisome due in part to medical achievements with nonhuman primates (NHP).  But a great deal of work remains and researchers at NABR’s 380 institutional members continue to strive to find a vaccines to eradicate HIV and other infectious diseases.

Highlighting this research was a posting by the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) explaining the irreplaceable role that monkeys play in scientific discovery.  They alone mirror the biological process of infections in humans because of their similar genetic make-up.  Being 98% genetically similar to humans makes them uniquely suited for these critical studies.  While there is currently no cure for HIV, the virus can be managed by a “drug cocktail” of antiretroviral therapy (ART) medicines.  This is certainly something to be proud of but researchers haven’t quit the hunt for a vaccine to prevent the spread of the HIV virus.  In fact, researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) will be taking an exciting HIV vaccine, developed and tested with NHP’s, to clinical trials in humans soon.

Please take a moment to read FBR’s posting and to share your thoughts in the comment section.  Also, please share this report with your friends, family, colleagues, and on social media to help communicate the vital importance that animal models still play in biomedical research and testing.

Animals Taking a Punch at Knocking Out Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease affects over an estimated 10 million people across the globe and every year 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disorder.  This past weekend the world lost one of its most notable faces of the disease, boxing legend and champion Muhammad Ali.  A fearsome boxer in the ring, he was also a passionate advocate for finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease.  Another formidable fighter is taking the fight to Parkinson’s: lab animals.  The Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) took a look at animal research and testing in Parkinson’s research in their latest blog post.

The exact cause of Parkinson’s is unknown but researchers know that it is a result of the loss of cells in various parts of the brain, including one portion that produces dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is essential for being able to move in a coordinated way.  The loss of dopamine causes the tremors often associated with the condition.  There currently is no cure for Parkinson’s but researchers and laboratory animals around the world are working to give it a solid KO.  Research with rats and mice showed that dopamine was instrumental in controlling walking and other voluntary movements, and that a depletion of this neurotransmitter impaired movement.  In the 1980s, researchers working with monkeys were able to identify in the brain the area impacted by the disease. While researchers identified the location, they did not know how it was affected.  Researchers discovered that lowered dopamine levels led to increased activity in the subthalamic nucleus (STN) which resulted in motor abnormalities in monkeys. They could relieve the Parkinson’s symptoms by interfering with the STN.  This eventually led the way to deep brain stimulation (DBS), one method of treating Parkinson's disease.  With DBS, a pacemaker is implanted that sends electrical impulses to the brain. In 2002, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of DBS to help treat Parkinson’s.

Thanks to rodents and monkeys, we have been able to give the disease some hard body blows.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to deliver the knock out punch.

To learn more about animal research and testing in Parkinson’s disease research, please click here and feel free to comment and to share with your friends, family, and colleagues on social media.

NIH Workshop on Research with Non-human Primates (NHP)

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Associate Director for Science Policy Carrie D. Wolinetz, PhD, announced last week a workshop on September 7, 2016, that will convene experts in science, policy, ethics, and animal welfare to discuss the oversight framework governing the use of non-human primates (NHPs) in NIH-funded biomedical and behavioral research.  As yet, no workshop speakers have been announced.

In her “Under the Poliscope” blog post, Dr. Wolinetz stated, “NIH remains confident that the oversight framework for the use of non-human primates in research is robust and has provided sufficient protections to date. However, we believe that periodically reviewing agency policies and processes ensures that this framework evolves in a manner consistent with emerging scientific opportunities and public health needs. Toward this end and in response to Congressional interest, the Office of Science Policy is taking the lead in planning a workshop on September 7th . . .  At this workshop, participants will also explore the state of the science involving non-human primates as research models and discuss the ethical principles underlying existing animal welfare regulations and policies…  NIH is committed to ensuring that research with non-human primates can continue responsibly…”

The workshop will be broadcast live and archived for future viewing on the NIH Videocast website.  Comments regarding the workshop may be submitted online in advance of and during the workshop for consideration.

Nature Addresses Role of China in Primate Research

The April 21 issue of Nature features the in-depth article, Monkey Kingdom, reviewing how and why “China is positioning itself as a world leader in primate research.” Nature reporter David Cyranoski, states, “With China fast becoming a global center for primate research, some scientists fear that it could hasten the atrophy of such science in the West and lead to a near monopoly.”

The piece suggests the Chinese enthusiasm “stands in stark contrast to the climate in the West, where non-human primate research is increasingly stymied by a tangle of regulatory hurdles, financial constraints and bioethical opposition.”  "Monkeying Around," a Nature editorial in the same issue, discusses the political situation, particularly in Europe.  Researchers agree that primate research models have a major role to play in many fields, a point dramatically made during the Ebola crisis, when therapies based on monkey studies were successfully rushed into use.  Ongoing investigations of Zika virus could make the point again.   “Such research is not an all or nothing proposal,” according to Nature, “it is one that requires continuous debate over where the research is warranted.”  Since public opinion against primate research appears to be growing, “too many politicians in Europe are shunning the debate, taking the easy way out and withdrawing support.”

The editorial concludes with encouragement of research collaboration and attention to “abiding by principles that guide the international scientific community – that monkeys should be used only when necessary and in as small a number as possible.”

Dutch Parliament Passes Motion to Phase Out Non-Human Primate Research

Three weeks ago, the Dutch Parliament passed a motion supported by all parties asking the Government to investigate completely phasing out non-human primate research at the Biomedical Primate Research Centre (BPRC) in Rijswijk and other research centers, as reported by the European Animal Research Association (EARA)The BPRC has been subject to consistent protests by animal rights activists, and had opened its doors to Vice News in 2015, resulting in a documentary, Inside the Monkey Lab.

In 2014, non-human primates accounted for less than 0.05% of animals used for scientific purposes in the Netherlands; yet non-human primate research plays an important role in developing medicines, combating infectious diseases and treating severe illnesses. Parliament has acknowledged this, and has asked the Government to ensure such research can still optimally take place, while phasing out non-human primate research as soon as possible under those circumstanc8es.

The current motion passed just months after the Ministry of Economic Affairs announced the support of a fund to stimulate the development of animal-free alternative methods; the Dutch government has stated it wants to be a world leader in alternatives by 2025. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science will send a letter to Parliament in mid-May listing the members of an independent commission of inquiry and the planned time frame in which the investigation is to take place.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in the UK (PETA UK) quickly declared victory online.

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