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.

Non-Human Primates Critical to Development of New Migraine Medication

The Hill reported on May 17 that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new medication to prevent migraine headaches. The new drug is called erenumab-aooe, trademarked as Aimovig, and is produced by Amgen and Novartis. In trials, Aimovig helped patients experience at least a 50 percent reduction in the total number of days in which they suffered a migraine.

Nonhuman primate (NHP) research was critical to testing the drug’s safety for pregnant woman and their unborn children. The FDA states, “No adverse effects on offspring were observed when pregnant monkeys were administered erenumab-aooe throughout gestation. Serum erenumab-aooe exposures in pregnant monkeys were greater than those in humans at clinical doses.”

Nonhuman primates have been, and will continue to be, critical to medical research. The Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) provides an excellent white paper and brochure on this topic, and we encourage you to read both.

VCU Researcher Reminds the Public Why Animal Research is Necessary

"We gotta get people out of the hospital. It's why we do research." That’s what Dr. Bill Dewey, Chair of the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Pharmacology and Toxicology Department, said in a Richmond news article about animal research aimed at curbing the nation’s opioid addiction epidemic.

Per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the opioid epidemic kills 115 people per day in the U.S., and WRIC in Richmond, VA reports there are five ongoing studies at VCU funded by the NIH. In the piece questioning VCU’s research, Dr. Dewey explained that the purpose of VCU’s research with primates is to find pain relief without addiction, a much-needed medical objective.

When asked about the opposition of animal rights groups, he responded, "I disagree with that because I think it's like the story of giving a man a fish… Teaching him how to fish is better." To read and watch Dr. Dewey’s salient comments about the value of animal research studies, please click here.

CNN Features NABR, FBR President in Coverage of FDA Nicotine Research

This morning, Matt Bailey, NABR and Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) president, expressed concerns in an article by CNN covering the recent decision by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to end nicotine studies with primates.

Countering claims by Justin Goodman, Vice President of Advocacy and Public Policy of the animal rights organization the White Coat Waste Project (WCW), that such research is a misuse of federal tax dollars, Bailey said, “Research into the effects of nicotine is indeed a public health issue, especially given the rise in popularity of vaping devices among teenagers.” Adding, "My understanding is that the research project in question aimed to determine whether there is or is not a safe level of nicotine absorption by young people." "That's an important question," said Bailey.

Bailey also addressed concerns regarding additional regulatory burden, saying any efforts to augment animal care must be done without impeding the speed of finding breakthroughs. "Additional oversight efforts need to be balanced by efforts to reduce the significant amount of regulatory burden felt daily by research scientists in the US."

"Animals played a role in the development of each of the top 25 most prescribed drugs in America," Bailey said. Adding that our pets, farm animals and wildlife also benefit from medical treatments developed in part from animal research, he noted, "Farm animals and wildlife are routinely vaccinated against any number of diseases, but those vaccines wouldn't be available without animal research. So if you love animals, you really should support animal research."

"Undoubtedly, some will argue that this recent action by the FDA is a reason to end research with animal models. But given the inextricable role humane and responsible animal research plays in the health of the overall population, and the health of the animals about which we care so deeply, that is a very dangerous proposition," he said.

Please click here to read Bailey’s interview by CNN

American Brain Coalition (ABC) Writes to FDA About Importance of Primate Research

The American Brain Coalition (ABC) has sent a letter to U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD about the importance of primate research and concerns about the FDA’s decision to halt primate nicotine studies. The studies could potentially increase researchers’ understanding of nicotine addiction in adolescents. FDA announced the studies would be halted until an investigation is conducted, shortly after receiving a letter from Jane Goodall, PhD, about her presumed concerns about the welfare of the animals and doubts about the necessity of the research.

ABC’s letter reiterates the importance of animal research in helping to understand and treat the 50 million Americans affected by neurological and psychiatric conditions. The letter expresses concern that Goodall may have inaccurately described the care the animals received, and also argues that she does not address why she thinks primates are an improper model for the research. The letter reads, “Dr. Goodall paints an overly broad and quite distorted picture of the legal use of animals in research. ABC hopes that the FDA will take the necessary steps to reject false representations of the use of animals in neuroscience research and confirms its support of life-saving research and the advancement of scientific knowledge.”

ABC's full letter is available here.

Government-Funded Researchers Discover Experimental Cure for Marburg Virus with Monkeys

Last week the National Institutes of Health (NIH) made a remarkable announcement about research into cures for Marburg and Ravn viruses, both relatives of the Ebola virus.

MR191-N, a monoclonal antibody derived from a human Marburg survivor, was administered by NIH-sponsored researchers to rhesus monkeys and guinea pigs and showed 100% effectiveness in curing late-stage, lethal-level infections of these viruses. According to the study two doses of the MR-191-N monoclonal antibody was able to provide 100% protection if given up to 5 days after infection. In contrast, other experimental treatments required daily doses for 7 or 14 days beginning closer to the time of infection.

Marburg and Ravn can resemble Ebola in symptoms and outcomes and medicine needs effective treatment and prophylactic measures. Hopefully these new findings prove effective in filling those voids.

To read more about this groundbreaking discovery, please click here.

Monkeys Leading the Way Towards Development for Paralysis

By now you probably thought you had seen all of the medical accomplishments that have come from important studies with monkeys. But there’s now more to be proud of. The Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) recently covered exciting research with nonhuman primates (NHP) that could help more than 250,000 Americans.

Over 250,000 Americans have suffered from spinal cord injuries (SCI) that have left them with paralysis. With the assistance of monkeys, researchers at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland have developed a wireless device that gained movement in their lower limbs. The device, which stimulates muscle movement by connecting nodes and the spinal cord, was developed with rhesus macaque monkeys and built on past findings from rodents. Information gained from these studies will hopefully lead to improved quality of life for people who are paralyzed.

This exciting new development shows promise advances that will allow many to function more independently and experience a better quality of life. To read more, please read FBR’s coverage by clicking here. Spread the word about the importance of monkeys in biomedical research by sharing this story with your friends, family, colleagues, and on social media.

Are Primates Still Important for Medical Progress? The Answer: Yes

Opponents to animal research always ask, “Is research with primates still needed?”  According to Dr. Andrew Jackson of Britain’s Newcastle University’s Institute of Neuroscience in a recent BBC Science & Environment article, primates are still vital for medical research, especially for studies with the brain.

Dr. Jackson has been recently researching the relationship between motion and the brain with rhesus macaque monkeys and a specially designed videogame. The monkeys play the game and when they win, they receive fruit as a reward. All the while, Dr. Jackson studies the monitors to see how neurons react to create the primates’ movement.  He explains that this research could help find ways to restore mobility to people who have suffering from paralysis.  Why a monkey? The research is performed with monkeys, rather than mice because the physiology of a monkey’s brain is much more similar to that of a human.  In addition, mice do not manipulate objects with their front paws like monkeys and people do with their hands.

In the article, an international animal rights group claims that primate research is unnecessary because of the existence of brain neural imaging and computer models, whose data is based of off previous animal studies. As the article notes, soon after publishing arguments in opposition to Dr. Jackson’s study, over six hundred scientists who are actively involved in animal research signed an open letter rejecting those claims.
Those scientists explain that nonhuman primates are very important for medical development and great lengths are taken to ensure their safety and comfort.  Labs come with elaborate enclosures, social groups, and more secluded areas to allow primates to have some time to themselves.  Dr. Jackson concurs that the wellbeing of the animals is very important for the experiments noting that stressed or uncomfortable animals can skew data and make it impossible to perform research.

To read the article, please click here. If you’d like to learn more about the importance of primates in research, please see the resources located on NABR’s website.

FBR President Outlines the Case for Animals in Medical Research in the Chicago Tribune

Frankie Trull, President of the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR), has recently written an engaging op-ed in the Chicago Tribune about the many benefits of using animals for medical research.

In her piece, Trull emphasizes the importance of utilizing non-human primates (NHP) which, while only comprising of less than one percent of the total research performed with animals, accounts for a sizeable impact on medical discovery.  To back up this fact, the article references great strides in medical research, such as the vaccines for polio, mumps, measles, and hepatitis B, which owe their successes to NHP research.  Yet with all of this evidence of the benefits of animal research, some critics posit that computer models are better suited for experiments than animals.  Trull refutes this claim quickly with her example of a recent endeavor to model human brain activity with a computer.  She writes, “In 2014, researchers in Japan attempted to simulate brain activity by using a supercomputer with over 700,000 processor cores.  It took the computers 40 minutes of whirring to effectively replicate what the brain does in one second.” Neurological research would take much longer and may inhibit the development of lifesaving treatments with the use of a computer model alone.  In addition, without animal models, particularly primates, researchers would have to test potentially unsafe medicines on humans, which is highly unethical and illegal.

Though in spite of the perceived controversy surrounding it, non-human primates remain a vital part of biomedical research. To read the op-ed in the Chicago Tribune, please click here, and please share it with your family, friends, colleagues, and on social media.

Research Community Releases Three Resources Lauding the Critical Need for Monkeys

Over the past few weeks the biomedical research community has shared with the public, policymakers, and media three well-written resources emphasizing the vital importance of nonhuman primates (NHP) in life-improving and life-saving research. These three tools highlight the irreplaceable nature of monkeys in the endeavor to better understand, treat and cure a wide array of diseases and conditions including autism, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, Zika virus, HIV/AIDS and Parkinson’s disease.

Along with The Critical Role of Nonhuman Primates in Medical Research, the authoritative white paper written by nine of the nation’s top scientific organizations, two recently released resources thave been published. To supplement the white paper and to further highlight the irreplaceable contributions of primates to medical progress with the lay public, the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) unveiled a colorful, quick and easy-to-read infographic designed to be shared on social media. FBR also produced a concise, full-color brochure illustrating how far medicine has come with the help of monkeys in research. Designed to be visually appealing, it takes both a look into the past and highlights innovative cures and treatments for cancer, HIV/AIDS, Zika virus, fetal development, Alzheimer's disease, organ transplants, and much more. To read the brochure, The Lifesaving Benefits of Primate Research, please click here.

Please print, share, and distribute the white paper, infographic, and brochure via email and social media to help highlight the importance of primates in research.