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.”