Animal Activist Previously Sentenced Under AETA Released from Prison

Nicole Kissane, an animal rights extremist, was released from prison on July 20. The release was profiled via a support web page and Facebook page.

Kissane pled guilty to conspiracy to violate the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). Kassane admitted to illegally releasing minks from farms across the country and vandalizing the Furs by Graf store in San Diego. Further, she pled guilty to vandalizing La Mesa and Spring Valley homes of the Furs by Graf owner and the owner’s parents in 2013.

Kissane was sentenced to 21 months in January 2017 while her co-defendant, Joseph Buddenberg, was sentenced to two years in prison in May 2016.

Congress Questions NIH Director on Animal Research Regulatory Burden

On July 25, the Health subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce (E&C) committee held a hearing titled "21st Century Cures Implementation: Updates from FDA and NIH." A recording of the hearing can be viewed on the House E&C YouTube site. The intent of this hearing was to get an update from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on their implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act.

Of interest to the animal research community is Section 2034(d) of the 21st Century Cures Act, enacted on December 13, 2016, which reads, “Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this Act, the Director of National Institutes of Health, in collaboration with the Secretary of Agriculture and the Commissioner of Food and Drugs, shall complete a review of applicable regulations and policies for the care and use of laboratory animals and make revisions, as appropriate, to reduce administrative burden on investigators while maintaining the integrity and credibility of research findings and protection of research animals. In carrying out this effort, the Director of the National Institutes of Health shall seek the input of experts, as appropriate.”

On March 14 the NIH put out a Request for Information (RFI) regarding animal care and use in research in an effort to comply with Section 2034(d) of the 21st Century Cures Act. However, in his written testimony submitted prior to the hearing, NIH Director Francis Collins included a section on reducing administrative burden and increasing efficiency, but did not mention animal research.

Two members of Congress on the Health subcommittee asked pointed questions of the Director on this issue. The first question came just after the 40:00 mark from Chairman Michael Burgess (R-TX), who asked, “We tried to identify ways to get regulations and policies that were inconsistent, and to give you some flexibility to move past some of these that are over-lapping and unnecessarily duplicative to relieve some of the administrative burden. I think the Act asked you to review that, so can you perhaps share with us where you are in the review and how NIH has identified some opportunities to relieve the burden on investigators?”

While Dr. Collins’ answer initially focused on how the NIH deals with grants, near the end of his answer he mentioned animal care and use by stating, “We’re looking right now at animal care and use and the oversight that is necessary, of course, to be sure that we’re dealing with animals in an ethical way. Some of those of those particular oversight mechanisms are now being reviewed. We put out an RFI and got 19,000 comments back from people who have opinions about how we might streamline these processes. Those are a few examples.”

Later, just after the 2:21:00 mark, Rep. “Buddy” Carter (R-GA) pushed Dr. Collins for a more direct answer by asking, “I wanted to ask about one of the initiatives of 21st Century cures, and that was to really review the regulations and policies with respect to research with laboratory animals. As I understand it you are working with USDA now and the FDA to try to complete a review of that. I wanted to ask you if you could tell us the current status of that review and when do you anticipate the completion of that review?

Dr. Collins replied, “We did put out an RFI back in March to ask for comments in this area in terms of whether the oversight that we currently apply to animal experimentation is sufficient or whether it has areas that are overly bureaucratic, which has been a concern. Obviously, we are deeply concerned about maintaining our ethical responsibilities in terms of how we take care of animals that are subjected to various experimental approaches, from which we learn a great deal that has led to many medical advances. We got 19,000 responses to that request and they are currently being sorted at the moment. We would expect to have, based upon those, a draft set of recommendations about animal care and use sometime probably in September. We will then need to have responses to that. So, we would hope to have a final version of this by December, or early in 2019.”

Rep. Carter pressed further asking, “Any opportunities that you’ve identified thus far that may help you?

Again, Dr. Collins highlighted grant issues by stating, “…I think there are concerns that some of the requirements that we put on grant applicants, in terms of animal care and use, could be delayed until the award is actually made as opposed to asking them to have all those things in place when they submit an application. That can add a lot of time and effort, and obviously our concern is that if we’re actually going to make the award we want to be sure that the animal care is being done in the best possible way. That is one area. Obviously, there are differences of opinion here and we’re seeing those in 19,000 responses and at some point, we have to try to come down on what we think is a fair and balanced approach.”

Last Week’s NABR-Exclusive Webinar Now Available for Online Viewing

Last week's NABR webinar, "Q&A with the USDA: The Sixth Edition" is now available online for on-demand viewing.  If you missed the webinar or would like to watch it again, it has been posted in the Members Only section of our website.

Please click here to view "Q&A with the USDA: The Sixth Edition."  You will need your NABR members-only log-in credentials to watch the presentation.

If you have problems logging in, please contact us at info@nabr.org.

New Insulin Pill Shows Positive Results in Rodent Models

A new insulin pill has shown positive results in a Harvard study with rodents, researchers say. While the concept of the insulin pill is not new, there are currently no products available on the commercial market. The biggest challenge with an insulin pill is that the digestive system tends to break down and destroy insulin itself.

The Harvard researchers tried a new approach with their version of the insulin pill by dispersing the insulin in liquid made from choline and geranic acid. When administered to rats, their blood sugar levels fell by about half, the effects lasting four hours. The researchers theorize the suspension of the insulin in the choline/geranic acid liquid prevents the digestive system from destroying the medicine, allowing it to be absorbed into the blood stream.

The researchers concluded, “Evidence from cell and animal studies supports a promising prospect of development of the formulation into a clinical product." You can read the full findings online via Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Are We on the Cusp of Finding an AIDS Vaccine?

With the help of nonhuman primates (NHP), French researchers may be close to answering the nearly 40-year old riddle that is AIDS.

On July 6, AFP reported that scientists had successfully tested the vaccine dubbed HVTN705 or "Imbokodo" in monkeys, shielding them from infection and triggering an immune response. It now moves to the next phase where it will be tested in 2,600 women in southern Africa. The results from the trial are expected in 2021 or 2022.

While we must be cautiously optimistic that Imbokodo will be successful in humans, this represents a great leap forward, thanks to the assistance of NHP models. A Harvard Medical School professor notes in the article that in the nearly 40-year history of AIDS, this is just the fifth vaccine concept to make it to the efficacy stage in people.

The Independent, The Telegraph, Science Alert, and ScienceDaily also featured coverage.

Targeted Professor Pens Letter Defending Her Research

Dr. Tania Roth, the University of Delaware researcher who has recently found herself targeted by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), wrote a piece in Delaware Online standing up for her neuroscience research and the vital role that animals play in medical advancement.

Besides breaking down the legal and regulatory framework she must follow, Roth very astutely notes, “The use of animal models in the research process is pivotal, and provides us with the tools necessary to better study the brain. By understanding basic neuroscience, where scientific knowledge begins, we can discover breakthroughs that will eventually lead to new therapies and offer hope to children and families all around the world.”

Click here to read Roth’s piece, and please take a moment to leave a comment in support of Roth.

Have You Registered for ‘Q&A with the USDA?’

If you haven’t yet reserved your spot for NABR’s next webinar on Tuesday, July 24, please do so ASAP. NABR once again welcomes Drs. Elizabeth Meek and Bill Stokes, the Eastern and Western Region Assistant Directors for Animal Welfare Operations, to its headquarters for the Sixth Edition of "Q&A with the USDA." Drs. Meek and Stokes are directly responsible for the oversight of the inspection and reporting process. NABR members will have a unique opportunity like none other, to ask questions directly to the leadership of the USDA Animal Care’s Animal Welfare Operations. Mark your calendars.

All questions must be submitted in advance to info@nabr.org. They will be reviewed and formatted to prevent duplication and will be answered in the order they are received, so please submit them as soon as possible. We will schedule the session for an hour (12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Eastern), but will continue the webinar until all questions have been answered.

NhRP Files Second Habeas Petition on Behalf of Elephants

The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) is making a second attempt to remove three elephants from a Goshen, CT petting zoo. In their habeas corpus petition on behalf of the elephants, NhRP claims the animals are autonomous beings which deserve bodily freedom. NhRP seeks to remove the elephants from the zoo and relocate them to a California-based sanctuary.

A previous ruling by Litchfield Superior Court Judge James Bentivegna in December of 2017 stated NhRP’s first attempt at habeas corpus for the elephants was “wholly frivolous” and NhRP had no standing in the state of Connecticut. NhRP founder and attorney, Steven Wise, is pinning his hopes on a recent opinion from a New York Court of Appeals ruling from May. In the May ruling, the court refused to grant a pair of chimpanzees personhood however Judge Fahey wrote in a concurring opinion, “While it may be arguable that a chimpanzee is not a ‘person,’ there is no doubt that it is not merely a thing.”

The goal of NhRP is to find a court which is willing to assert that animals have the same legal protections as humans, which would likely open a Pandora’s Box of problems for the animal research community should the effort succeed. Wise and the NhRP have been largely unsuccessful thus far in their efforts. However, the research community should be cognizant of the fact that these legal attempts to grant animals personhood will continue, and will negatively impact, or halt, research if they are not defeated.

NIH Issues RFI on Assessing the Safety of Relocating At-Risk Chimpanzees

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a Request for Information (RFI) on June 11 in the Federal Register titled, “Input on Report from Council of Councils on Assessing the Safety of Relocating At-Risk Chimpanzees.” This RFI stems from the 2015 decision by NIH Director Francis Collins that all NIH-owned chimpanzees should be retired and relocated to the chimpanzee sanctuary, Chimp Haven, in Keithville, LA. However, many of the NIH-owned chimpanzees are of an advanced age and relocation has caused unnecessary stress on several of them. Additionally, there have been an alarming number of deaths of retired chimpanzees after relocation to Chimp Haven during the past several years.

The NIH posted the notice in the Federal Register to inform the research community, and other interested parties, that it has received a report from the Council of Councils Working Group on Assessing the Safety of Relocating At-Risk Chimpanzees. The NIH will consider the recommendations in the report and is inviting the public to comment in response the RFI. This RFI is open for public comment for a period of 60 days and comments must be submitted by August 10, 2018. Comments must be submitted electronically here: https://grants.nih.gov/grants/rfi/rfi.cfm?ID=72.

National Review Provides Positive Coverage of Animal Research and Testing

Research with animal models continues to be critically important for breakthroughs in modern medicine. Yet, it is frequently under assault by recognizable and lesser known animal rights groups who oppose the use of animals in ethical and humane research. Yesterday, the National Review printed a piece that we think you should read, covering the benefits of animal research and explaining why science needs animals for lifesaving and life-improving research.

A recent discovery in gene therapy to repair spinal cord damage in rats was notably highlighted as a prime example how animal research is vital.

Please click here to read yesterday’s National Review piece and feel free to share it with your friends, family, colleagues, and social media.

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