2016 Michael E. DeBakey Journalism Award Winners Announced

The Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) has announced the winners of the 15th annual Michael E. DeBakey Journalism Awards. Named in honor of world-renowned heart surgeon and FBR’s late chairman, Dr. Michael E. DeBakey, the awards recognize outstanding journalism highlighting recent medical discoveries and scientific breakthroughs that includes the humane and responsible use of animal models. An awards dinner to honor the winners will be held on Wednesday, September 7 in Washington, D.C.

The 2016 Michael E. DeBakey Journalism Award winners are:

For more information about the Michael E. DeBakey Journalism Awards, please visit FBR's website by clicking here.

NABR congratulates this year’s winners and applauds them for their coverage of the important role animals play in lifesaving and life-improving research.

Bill to Address Regulatory Burden Introduced in U.S. House

On June 24, Representative Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) introduced the University Regulation Streamlining and Harmonization Act of 2016 (H.R. 5583), a bill to streamline and harmonize Federal research regulations at institutions of higher education, and for other purposes. Current co-sponsors are Reps. Tom Graves (R-GA), Randy Hultgren (R-IL), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), and Reid J. Ribble (R-WI).  H.R. 5583 was jointly referred to two committees, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

In a letter to Congressman Lipinski, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) praised the bill for the steps it takes to streamline and harmonize the increasingly complex and burdensome set of regulations that hamper the conduct of research. While acknowledging that appropriate regulations are necessary to ensure research is conducted in a responsible and ethical manner, FASEB supports the provisions in the bill that would reduce regulatory burden on practicing scientists. In particular, the proposed legislation would establish a Research Policy Board, reporting to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), tasked with reviewing new and existing regulations with an eye toward streamlining requirements.

Because federal regulations governing animal research are among those which may be affected, NABR is encouraged by this interest in reducing regulatory burden and will report any progress of this new proposal and others.

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.

Pat Summitt’s Legendary Support for Alzheimer’s Research

Pat Summitt, the renowned basketball coach and champion for Alzheimer’s research, passed away this morning. As head coach of the University of Tennessee’s Lady Volunteers basketball team she achieved legendary status as the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history. Aside from her dominance on the court, she will forever be remembered as a fierce advocate to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

After being diagnosed with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type, she built the Pat Summitt Foundation to help raise awareness, fund research, and support families facing the disease. Her foundation has awarded $800,000 in research grants and has united scientists working for a cure.

In 2014, the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) produced a promotional video featuring Pat, her tenacious fight against the disease, and discussed how animal research and testing has helped advanced progress against Alzheimer’s. Animal research and testing has played a significant role in the pursuit of an Alzheimer’s cure. Scientists are able to study rodents with the same amyloid protein in the brain that is characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. That model allows researchers to explore options to remove or block the protein. Alongside mice, monkeys have played and continue to play an indispensable role in Alzheimer’s research.  Researchers looking at what is happening in a healthy monkey brain helps scientists better understand how the human brain works, and the role of cognitive and motor problems in diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s research is critical. It is estimated that 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s and current costs associated with the disease are $236 billion. The Alzheimer’s Association projects that the disease is estimated to cost more than $1 trillion by 2050 if a treatment is not discovered.

Pat was an amazing coach and a passionate advocate for a cure. To read FBR’s coverage on Pat’s legacy, please click here.

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.

Share Your Story!

Do you have an interesting or uplifting story about how animal research and testing has positively impacted your life?  If you do, the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) wants to hear about it!

Next month FBR is hosting a “Share Your Story” series featuring guest bloggers discussing the positive difference that animal models have made in their lives, the lives of loved ones, or those of their animal companions.  FBR is looking for all kinds of stories from people of all walks of life.  Do you take one of the Top 25 Most Prescribed Drugs that was developed with animals?  Are you able to spend more time with your pet thanks to veterinary medicine?  Is a parent or child alive today because of the animals involved in cancer treatments?  If you’re interested in learning more, please contact FBR at info@fbresearch.org or call (202) 457-0654.

Telling your story will help FBR communicate the vital importance that animal models still play in biomedical research and testing.  Don’t be shy, share your story!

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.

Some Animal Research News on National Donut Day

Today, June 3, is National Donut Day.  Before you sprint to your local coffee shop for a glazed chocolate with sprinkles, you may want to read a recent article from Time and thank animal research for the warning.

It has become abundantly clear by now that a bad diet of unhealthy food harms the body, particularly with weight gain.  Junk food is high in sugar and salt but low in healthy nutrients.  Studies have shown that it can disrupt hormones, change a person’s sense of taste, and even raise the risk of mental illness.  But did you know it could damage your kidneys?  According to a study in Experimental Physiology, rats fed a diet of chocolate bars, marshmallows, biscuits, and cheese exhibited harm to their kidneys similar to that of type-2 diabetes.  Researchers analyzed the rats’ blood sugar levels and function of blood sugar transporters in their kidneys.  Upon review they were able to see what happened to the kidneys of rats that ate junk food and fatty foods, compared to the kidneys of those with diabetes.

To read Time’s report on this research, please click here.

Are Research Rats, Mice, and Birds Protected Species?

It is often said by the animal rights community that research animals like rodents, birds, and fish are not protected by federal laws.  Yesterday, the blog Speaking of Research addressed this confusion and outlined the protections granted to these animals in research and testing despite the claims of anti-research activists.

Although not covered by the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), rodents, birds and fish bred for research are federally protected.   Under the Health Research Extension Act (HREA), statutory authority is granted to the Public Health Service (PHS) Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (PHS Policy).  Institutions receiving federal funds must comply with PHS Policy which contains extensive information on procedures and the care of live vertebrate animals.  This policy, overseen by the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW), has the authority to suspend projects and even cease funding if violations of PHS Policy are found.  Finally, at the institutional level, private accreditations and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) provides oversight and public transparency for the research.

To read Speaking of Research’s interesting coverage of this myth, please click here.

European Commission Announces Infringement Procedure against Italy’s Restrictive Animal Research Law

The European Commission (EC) opened an infringement procedure against Italy on April 28 over the country’s restrictions on animal research. The action was prompted after research institutes there complained new Italian animal research regulations put them at a disadvantage compared to researchers in other Member States where there are fewer restrictions. The Italian government has two months to respond to the EC complaint. In order to resolve the infringement procedure, Italy must ensure that its laws abide by the requirements set out in the European Directive (2010/63).

You may recall that Italy passed a law in 2014 banning the breeding of cats, dogs and non-human primates for research purposes, or conducting even minimally invasive experiments that do not require sedation or pain-killers. The law also bans work in xenotransplantation and studies of drugs of abuse.  These restrictions pose serious problems for biomedical research in Italy and make it impossible for Italian science to compete with the other European member states.

The European Animal Research Association (EARA) reports the Commission has sent a letter of formal notice to the Italian government, as the first step in the infringement procedure. Earlier this year, EARA’s partner organization Research4Life asked the European Commission on behalf of 37 public and private Italian research institutions for the law to be reassessed. The Commission has informed Italy that its animal research law, legislative decree 26/2014, places “excessive restrictions” on the use of animals for scientific purposes and makes it impossible for Italian science to compete with other European member states.