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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Director of NIH’s Office of AIDS Research Stepping Down in July

Dr. Jack Whitescarver has announced that he will step down effective July 1, 2015.  Dr. Whitescarver has led the Office of AIDS Research (OAR) at the National Institutes of Health since 2000.

“Jack has dedicated his life’s work to supporting research to prevent and treat, and ultimately find a cure for HIV/AIDS.  He has been instrumental in identifying the most important scientific priorities across NIH institutes and centers toward this effort,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “While we have made significant strides in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, many research challenges remain. But Jack’s dedicated efforts have moved us substantially closer to the ultimate goal of ending the AIDS pandemic.”

Dr. Whitescarver also serves as NIH Associate Director for AIDS Research. The NIH will appoint an acting director for the office while it seeks to recruit a new director.

To read NIH’s release, please click here.  To learn more about the NIH Office of AIDS Research, please visit http://www.oar.nih.gov.

Dr. Lowy Named Acting Director of NIH’s National Cancer Institute

Dr. Douglas Lowy has been officially named the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Acting Director. Dr. Lowy has served as NCI’s deputy director since July 2010, helping lead NCI’s key scientific initiatives since that time.

A cancer researcher for more than 40 years, he received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Barack Obama in 2014 for his research leading to the development of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. His laboratory, in close collaboration with John T. Schiller, PhD, was involved in the initial development, characterization, and clinical testing of the preventive virus-like particle-based HPV vaccines that are now used in the three U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved HPV vaccines.

As you'll recall, Dr. Harold Varmus announced on March 4 that he would be stepping down after 5 years as NCI's Director.

“NIH Research: Think Globally,” Say Drs. Collins and Fauci

An editorial written by National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci, MD, about the need to invest in biomedical research both domestically and internationally, was published in the April 10 issue of Science. The NIH leaders say the nation “has a vital interest in the health of people around the globe, rooted in an enduring tradition of humanitarian concern as well as in enlightened self-interest. Engagement in global health protects the nation’s citizens, enhances the economy, and advances U.S. interests abroad.” An example is the recent Ebola outbreak that originated in West Africa, but made its way to the United States.

Now, in the face of serious fiscal constraints, the idea has reemerged from some congressional leaders and disease constituency groups to more closely align NIH funding for disease research with disease burden in the United States. Although the nation must maintain robust research support for diseases that cause illness and death among large numbers of Americans, Collins and Fauci argue it would be unwise to deemphasize diseases that exact their largest toll elsewhere in the world. In closing, they say it is “imperative that the nation sustain momentum and work with its global partners to deliver the fruits of global research to the people who need them most, both at home and abroad. Without such a commitment, we may miss opportunities to curtail or even eliminate important diseases such as AIDS and also risk the resurgence of major global health threats such as drug-resistant bacteria, tuberculosis, and malaria, for which new interventions are badly needed.”

Members of U.S. House and Senate Sign Letters Supporting NIH Funding

A total of 169 House members, including 29 Republicans, signed a March 25 letter supporting increased funding for NIH in FY 2016. The bi-partisan letter, organized by Reps. David McKinley (R-WV), Susan Davis (D-CA), Andre Carson (D-IN), and Peter King (R-NY), requests that NIH receive “at least $32 billion” in FY 2016. The House letter, which was sent to the chairs and ranking members of both the full House Appropriations Committee and its Labor-HHS subcommittee, states “it is critical that the United States make forward-thinking investments that promote medical breakthroughs as well as our international leadership in biomedical research.”

Similarly, a total of 54 senators, including 12 Republicans, signed a March 27 letter requesting the chairs and ranking members of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Labor-HHS subcommittee “maintain a strong commitment” to funding for NIH. The Senate letter, led by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Richard Burr (R-NC), does not mention a specific funding level for NIH but urges appropriators “to consider the tremendous benefits of a sustained investment in the NIH.”

House Appropriations Subcommittee Hears NIH Director Testimony

On Tuesday, March 3, NIH Director Francis Collins appeared before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education, and Related Agencies to discuss details of the agency’s FY 2016 funding request. He was accompanied by National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci and other institute directors.

A webcast of the hearing may be found at the subcommittee’s website and Dr. Collins’ written testimony is available here.

Harold Varmus to Step Down as Head of NIH’s National Cancer Institute

Dr. Harold Varmus announced today that he will be stepping down as the Director of the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Cancer Institute (NCI) after nearly 5 years at the post.  He will leave NCI at the end of March.  Douglas Lowy, NIH’s Deputy Director and long-time NCI intramural researcher, will become acting director.

Varmus, who won the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, served as NIH’s director from 1993-1999 and returned in 2010 to oversee NCI’s work.  He plans to return to New York City to continue research into cancer care.

To read more news about Dr. Varmus and his resignation, please click here.  You can also find Varmus’ letter to NCI staff here.  NIH’s press release can be read here.

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