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NIH Workshop on the Ethics of Primate Research

Michael Oberdorfer

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Michael Oberdorfer

ScienceInsider posted a summary of the discussion at the NIH workshop: Ensuring Continued Responsible Research with Non-Human Primates which occurred this week. As one might expect the views expressed by attendees differed markedly.

The workshop was mandated in the 2016 federal spending bill that asked… “NIH conduct a review of its ethical policies and processes with respect to nonhuman primate research subjects, in consultation with outside experts, to ensure it has appropriate justification for animal research protocols.

NIH Director Francis Collins opened the workshop stating that:“…non-human primates have proven to be exceptionally valuable in biomedical research." He also said, "…the welfare of these animals—more than 100,000 of which currently reside in U.S. labs was critical. We need to respect all of the species that contribute so much to our understanding of human health and disease.

Speakers ranged from directors of National Primate Research centers, investigators using non-human primates, to bioethicists and animal activists.

Representatives from PETA attended and complained that the workshop “was an infomercial for the use of monkeys in experiments.”

Important points were also made by Alyson Bennett of Speaking for Research stating: "Ethical considerations are embedded in institutional review and federal oversight…noting that no work on nonhuman primates can be funded or take place unless it meets strict welfare guidelines.“
Charles Murray, a pathologist at the University of Washington stated that: "scientists need to do a better job of convincing the public of the importance of animal research. Our press people tell us not to mention the word ‘monkey,’” he said. “We should be doing more than trying to keep a low profile. That’s the path to the extinction of the whole program.”

A video cast of the workshop will be made available by NIH.

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