Oppose expansion for primate research

I was very disturbed to learn that the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) proposed 2022 budget allots $30 million to the National Primate Research Centers (NPRCs) for expanding numbers of primates for research. Congress must reject this funding that is not supported by the facts.

False claims made by the National Primate Research Centers assert that there are not enough primates available for research, in particular to study treatments for COVID-19.

In fact, monkeys are not essential for COVID-19 research. Vast differences in genetics and physiology mean primates do not experience COVID-19 as humans do and are inadequate models for studying it.

In 2020, vaccines for COVID-19 were developed and made accessible to the public in record time. Because of the urgency imposed by the pandemic, vaccine developers Pfizer and Moderna were given approval to run human trials ahead of normally required animal testing, demonstrating that animal tests are more of a regulatory requirement than a scientific necessity.

The claim that there are not enough primates for COVID-19 research also falls flat. In 2019 USDA’s records show 40,269 monkeys were held in reserve – or not needed for experiments. This is in addition to the 68,256 monkeys used in experiments. This is a 14% increase over the number that went unused in 2018. A funding increase to breed more primates is wholly unjustified. 

A wealth of human-relevant research methods is available to study COVID-19, including microphysiological systems (organoids, organ chips), in silico trials, computer modelling, imaging, and gene sequencing. These are what truly enable scientists to advance our understanding of COVID-19 and other disorders. Decades of research on primates has failed to yield any treatments for our most pressing illnesses like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, HIV, stroke, cancer and more.

Investing funds to breed more primates for research is unwarranted and unethical. Please reject this inclusion for the 2022 HHS budget.

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