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Chimpanzees in Biomedical Research

Today NIH made an important announcement about the use of chimpanzees in biomedical and behavioral research. After accepting the findings of an extensive Institute of Medicine (IOM) study commissioned by NIH, and reviewing the implementation recommendations from the Council of Councils  and public feedback, NIH leadership has decided to significantly reduce the use of chimpanzees in the biomedical research it supports, and expects to designate the majority of NIH-owned chimpanzees for retirement.

The IOM study released in 2011 proposed three principles to analyze research using chimpanzees. First, the knowledge gained by the research must be necessary to advance the public’s health. Second, there must be no other animal research model that could provide this knowledge, and the research cannot be ethically performed on human subjects. Finally, the animals used in the proposed research must be maintained in natural habitats or appropriate physical and social environments.

NIH-supported research projects involving chimpanzees that do not meet these principles will wind down in a planned way that will avoid an impact on the animals and unacceptable losses to the science supported by these projects.

On this website you can find more on the recommendations accepted by NIH, and a summary of the public comments received as part of our request for comments earlier this year.

We plan to prepare subsequent procedural guidance and technical assistance, as appropriate, to implement some of these decisions. Researchers should continue to follow the existing guidance (see NOT-OD-12-025) regarding the submission of applications, proposals, or protocols for research involving chimpanzees until NIH finalizes this procedural guidance. We will be working closely with all of our stakeholders to ensure as smooth a transition as possible for research projects that will be affected by NIH’s decision.

7 thoughts on “Chimpanzees in Biomedical Research

  1. Good for the NIH. The Center for Alternative Testing at John Hopkins has been working in this area for a long time. Every human, as well as species, has a distinct genetic profile. One size does not fit all.

    Why do we think that testing a drug in a mouse or chimp will give critical information for its use in a human? By the number of failed clinical trials you would think research would have learned that it does not. Science has got to come up with a better cell-based assay using human explants to help move the understanding of disease states, drug discovery and clinical treatment forward and cost effectively.

    I am proud that the NIH group has made this decision.

  2. How many research projects will be defunded on the basis of this new policy? Please give some examples of research that will not be completed due to this decision.

  3. A long overdue step in the right direction. Next steps should include policies to improve the welfare of all animals, not just chimpanzees.

  4. Although I completely see the need to minimize the use of primates, I can not help but feel that this is just another notch in the belt of PETA and similar organizations. These organizations have shown time after time that they are not really interested in the animals but rather the crusade they are carrying out. Slowly but surely they are making biomedical research impossible. The pity is that all that is really happening is that such research is being driven to be done in places in asia like China where there are few animal welfare laws or regulations and the animals will suffer far more than they would in the United States.

  5. Bravo to all of the hardworking minds at the NIH for recognizing this! I would like to echo the thoughts of Patricia J. Malin above. Thank you!

  6. I completely agree with ANN JACOBSON. Thank you, Ann!! And THANK YOU, NIH!!! GREAT job!

    I COMPLETELY DISAGREE with Robert Kensler.

    Great for the chimpanzees that don’t have to suffer any longer in those miserable, insane, and cruel cages!!! THIS IS WHAT INTELLIGENCE AND WISDOM LOOK LIKE.

    Ignorance, selfishness, and egocentrism are NOT what human sentient beings should aim at. INTELLIGENCE, LOVE, AND COMPASSION: THAT IS OUR GOAL!!!

    THANK YOU NIH!!!! I can’t Thank You enough!!! :))

    Maria G., Ph.D.

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