Affiliated with University of Louisiana at Lafayette; review inspection reports here
Approximate number of chimpanzees: 297
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
New Iberia Research Center
P.O. Box 13610
New Iberia, LA 70562-3610
NIRC Director: Joe Simmons
The New Iberia Research Center (NIRC) is a private facility that receives federal funding for research involving the use of chimpanzees and is owned and operated by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (UL Lafayette). The NIRC “specializes in the breeding, management, and importation of a diverse range of nonhuman primate species” and has the largest number of captive primates in the world.1 The center provides housing “for over 6,000 nonhuman primates representing eight species,” such as chimpanzees, vervet monkeys, and several different species of macaques.2 The NIRC “operates from a 100-acre site with 24 buildings totaling 485,000 square feet” and claims that it has given much attention to the development of “suitable” living quarters for its nonhuman primates.3 Nonhuman primates at the NIRC are primarily used in infectious disease research, vaccine development, and drug testing, funded largely by pharmaceutical companies and grants and contracts from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Before the NIRC was established, the facility was called the Gulf South Research Institute (GSRI), which focused primarily on rodent animal models, yet housed a few nonhuman primates there as well. “In 1984, GSRI discontinued its biological research activities and UL Lafayette (then the University of Southwestern Louisiana) redefined the nature of the facility and created the New Iberia Research Center, operating a Primate Research Center as a contract support facility.” In the beginning, the NIRC’s primary focus was “to provide private industry and the federal government with a reliable source of native born, quality bred nonhuman primates.” In 1990, the NIRC “expanded its mission by providing pre-clinical safety, pharmacodynamic, pharmacokinetic, and efficacy evaluations of pharmaceuticals and biotechnology products.”4
In 2009, charges were filed against the NIRC for violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) following the public release of a nine month undercover investigation of the facility by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Stated by HSUS, “NIRC cages about 6,000 monkeys and 325 chimpanzees on its 100 acres, but in the span of nine months, the HSUS investigator saw only about 20 of the chimpanzees used in active studies. The majority of chimpanzees at the facility appeared to be warehoused or used for breeding…”5 After viewing the NIRC footage, Jane Goodall commented, “the conditions in which the chimpanzees are confined are grim. There are metal cages with no bedding and no enrichment activities for the chimpanzees visible. Particularly shocking, to me, was a clip showing infant chimpanzees in diapers, clinging to each other, in utterly bleak, sterile conditions. This is likely to lead to behavioral abnormalities. The cages of the adults were small and absolutely bare.”6
Following the public complaints filed against the NIRC, the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) launched an investigation into the facility and documented several AWA violations. In May 2010, the USDA issued an $18,000 penalty against the NIRC “in connection with alleged violations of the AWA.”7 This is not the first time the NIRC has been accused of and investigated for violations of the AWA. In 2005, the USDA launched an investigation into the NIRC following allegations of chimpanzee cruelty made by a former employee.
Much of the current research involving chimpanzees at the NIRC focuses on “studies for hepatitis C vaccines and therapies.” Additional research is also devoted to “assessing safety and efficacy of large molecules such as monoclonal antibodies” and “studies on deriving chimpanzee cell lines, antibodies and other biological materials, as well as comparative genomics research.”8 In the past, chimpanzees were also used in maternal separation/deprivation experiments conducted by G. Berkson and W.A. Mason. Given the intensity of the mother-child bond for chimpanzees in the wild, this type of research is exceptionally cruel and creates an immense degree of psychological suffering for the chimpanzees involved.
According to NIH, the NIRC maintains and provides “a ready source of chimpanzees of mixed ages and sex for use in biomedical and behavioral sciences…”9 In doing this, the NIRC not only conducts research on chimpanzees, but also bred and produced new chimpanzees for research. For example, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) maintained a contract with the NIRC to provide four to twelve “healthy and disease-free infant chimpanzees per year” for infectious disease research. This occureds despite the enactment of a permanent breeding moratorium on chimpanzees owned or supported by NIH’s National Center for Research Resources (NCRR). The moratorium was made permanent due to NCRR not having “the financial resources to support the breeding of chimpanzees that are owned or supported by NCRR.” However, according to NIH, “the moratorium was not intended for privately owned chimpanzees, or to apply to the other NIH Institutes.”10, 11
- Drug safety studies
- Drug efficacy studies
- Basic biology studies in HCV infected chimpanzees
- Therapeutic studies (i.e., studies for hepatitis C vaccines and therapies)
- Behavioral studies and sampling studies on control animals
The NIRC receives grants from NIH for chimpanzee research, housing, and maintenance. Out of the 297 chimpanzees housed at the NIRC, 59 are owned by NIH. As of 2014, all NIH-owned chimpanzees were to be moved to the federal sanctuary Chimp Haven. According to HSUS, the center has received over “$48 million in federal funding since 2000,” and much of this money has gone towards breeding chimpanzees.12 For example, since 2000, over $10 million has been awarded to the NIRC for grant U42RR015087, “Establishment/Maintenance of Biomedical Research Colony.” In addition to assisting with the housing and maintenance of the chimpanzees, the grant funding also allows for the NIRC to “maintain capabilities to successfully breed [chimpanzees] (once the breeding moratorium has been lifted).” The NIRC has also received over $7 million since 2002 for its contract with NIAID, titled the “Leasing of Chimpanzees for the Conduct of Research.” The contract, N01-A0-22754, continued through September 2012.13, 14 Over 200 chimpanzees have been born at the NIRC since 1995.
(1) New Iberia Research Center. (n.d.). Mission. Retrieved from http://nirc.louisiana.edu/about/mission.html
(2) New Iberia Research Center. (n.d.). Animal Resources. Retrieved from http://nirc.louisiana.edu/divisions/availabilityspecies.html
(3) New Iberia Research Center. (n.d.). The Facility. Retrieved from http://nirc.louisiana.edu/about/facility.html
(4) New Iberia Research Center. (n.d.). History. Retrieved from http://nirc.louisiana.edu/about/history.html
(5) The Humane Society of the United States. (2009, March 4). Undercover Investigation Reveals Cruelty to Chimps at Research Lab. Retrieved from http://www.humanesociety.org/news/news/2009/03/undercover_investigation_chimpanzee_abuse.html
(6) The Humane Society of the United States. (2009, March 4). Jane Goodall Responds to Undercover Chimpanzee Investigation. Retrieved from http://www.humanesociety.org/news/news/2009/03/goodall_response_chimp_investigation_030409.html
(7) U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2010, June 11). USDA Announces Recent Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act Enforcement Actions. Retrieved from http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/content/2010/06/enforcement_actions.shtml
(8) Institute of Medicine. (2011). Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research: Assessing the Necessity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
(9) National Center for Research Resources. (n.d.). Primate Resources. Retrieved from www.ncrr.nih.gov/comparative_medicine/resource_directory/primates.asp#unila
(10) National Center for Research Resources. (n.d.). Chimpanzee Management Program. Retrieved from http://www.ncrr.nih.gov/comparative_medicine/chimpanzee_management_program/
(11) Cohen, J. (2009, March 13). Humane Society Launches Offensive to Ban Invasive Chimp Research. Science, 323, 1414-1415.
(12) The Humane Society of the United States. (2009, March 4). Undercover Investigation Reveals Cruelty to Chimps at Research Lab. Retrieved from http://www.humanesociety.org/news/news/2009/03/undercover_investigation_chimpanzee_abuse.html
(13) New Iberia Research Center. (n.d.). NIH Grants. Retrieved from http://nirc.louisiana.edu/divisions/nihgrants.html
(14) National Institutes of Health. (n.d.). NIH RePORTER. Retrieved from http://projectreporter.nih.gov/reporter.cfm