June 28, 2011 • Posted in Project R&R News
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) requested that the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine (NAS/IOM) conduct a study on the use and necessity of chimpanzees in research for the advancement of public health. Convened April 5th, the committee will issue its report in nine months. The findings will impact the fate of all chimpanzees in U.S. research and testing.
According to the IOM website, the study will
“explore contemporary and anticipated biomedical research questions to determine if chimpanzees are or will be necessary for research discoveries.”
Should the committee identify biomedical questions, they will proceed
“to describe the unique biological/immunological characteristics of the chimpanzee that make it the necessary animal model for use in the types of research, and provide recommendations for any new or revised scientific parameters to guide how and when to use these animals for research.”
Their next task is to
“explore contemporary and anticipated behavioral research questions to determine if chimpanzees are necessary for progress in understanding social, neurological and behavioral factors…”
“The committee will explore contemporary and anticipated future alternatives to the use of chimpanzees in biomedical and behavioral research….” *
The IOM has responsibility to assign qualified and objective members to the committee. As first assembled, however, the named “unbiased” appointees raised eyebrows as to their claimed impartial status.
NEAVS believes that the current member selection falls short of fulfilling IOM’s directive. As composed, the committee has the appearance of favoring a one-sided outcome and will not foster the confidence of neutral scientists, the public, or legislators that it will deliver results purged of bias. While NEAVS respects the care NAS/IOM is taking in assigning members, we believe that without the elimination of certain members and the addition of specifically qualified balancing members, NAS/IOM cannot issue an objective report.
NEAVS thoroughly reviewed the provisional committee members’ profiles. After such review, NEAVS sent comment to NAS/IOM pointing out that there are no members who are experts in research involving chimpanzees, too few reflecting ethics and humane concerns, and urging NAS/IOM to remove six members. Three provisional appointees have since been withdrawn.
To fulfill the committee’s shortcomings and ensure a balanced composition, NEAVS proposed our Science Director, Jarrod Bailey, PhD. Dr. Bailey spent the last six years reviewing the use of chimpanzees in biomedical research—a project assigned after he evaluated the importance or unimportance of chimpanzee studies to biomedical scientific papers and the contribution they made to human clinical progress and practice. He authored reviews of chimpanzee use in areas of medical research described as “major killer diseases.” They include papers on the development of AIDS vaccines, cancer research, and hepatitis C research—including extensive review of alternatives in the development of a hep C vaccine. Dr. Bailey stands as a unique resource for information and scientific reference that would otherwise take the committee years to gather. Read NEAVS/Project R&R’s scientific papers.