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Saturday, December 17, 2011

N.M. Senators React to Report on Use of Chimpanzees in Research


U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall welcomed news that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will adopt new guidelines outlined in a new scientific report that greatly limit the circumstances under which chimpanzees can be used for research.

At the request of New Mexico’s senators and Senator Tom Harkin, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies undertook a comprehensive study about whether chimpanzees are still necessary for health research. The expert report, released publicly today, concluded that testing on chimpanzees is largely no longer necessary, however, very limited circumstances exist where it may still be beneficial.

On the heels of being briefed about the report findings on Tuesday, Bingaman and Udall wrote to the National Institute of Health Director Francis Collins urging the prompt adoption of the IOM's new recommendations. The senators also told Dr. Collins they hoped that, in light of the new report, the chimpanzees in Alamogordo will be excluded from further testing. The Senator's letter is at the end of this post.

The Animal Protection of New Mexico (APNM) has worked tirelessly for the stopping of the testing on Chimpanzees at New Mexico's Alamagordo Primate Facility . APNM's website states their mission: "APNM's mission is to advocate the rights of animals by effecting systemic change, resulting in the humane treatment of all animals."

Laura Bonar, APNM Program Director had this to say about the report, “This represents years of effort with many dedicated New Mexicans working together to protect these chimpanzees. It also shows the power of the people when working together in a meaningful way the success that can be achieved."

The Senator's letter follows:

December 14, 2011

Dear Director Collins:

We are writing regarding the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, “Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research,” which our offices were briefed on earlier this week. We appreciate the support you and the NIH staff have dedicated to this issue following our request for the study.

The IOM report recommends the National Institutes of Health adopt strict criteria for evaluating future proposals to use chimpanzees in biomedical, genomics, or behavioral research programs. These criteria would significantly reduce the need for chimpanzees in health research. We ask you to promptly adopt these recommendations.

In addition, we hope that you will find that the chimpanzees in Alamogordo Primate Facility (APF) should be excluded from research after you evaluate them in light of these new criteria. For example, the report notes that one of the few areas of biomedical research where chimpanzees may still be needed is to evaluate the effectiveness of prophylactic vaccines for the hepatitis C virus, the leading cause of liver transplants in the United States. However, many of the APF chimpanzees are already infected with the hepatitis C virus and therefore may not be suitable for evaluating the effectiveness of a prophylactic vaccine for this virus.

Although the report cautions against imposing an immediate ban on the use of chimpanzees in research, it clearly highlights that the need for using chimpanzees in testing has greatly diminished. Specifically the report states “[t]he present trajectory indicates a decreasing scientific need for chimpanzee studies due to the emergence of non-chimpanzee models and technologies.” With that in mind, we ask that you support funding for these technologies that further diminish the need to use chimpanzees in biomedical research.

Thank you for consideration of these matters.


Jeff Bingaman, United States Senator  

Tom Udall, United States Senator  

December 17, 2011 at 09:22 AM in Animal Protection, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Tom Udall | Permalink