IOM Recommends limits on Chimpanzee research

On December 15, 2011, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (IOM) published a report entitled “Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research: Assessing the Necessity” in response to a request from the NIH and Congress.  The consensus report was generated by the Board on Health Sciences Policy of the IOM, which started its work in April and concluded recently with the publication of this report.  Briefing slides detail the review process, and list that multiple public comment periods were held with over 5700 comments logged.  The slides demonstrate that the NIH/NCRR financed about 2/3 (612/937) of all Chimpanzee research funding at 5 institutes.  Chimpanzee research has historically been in the area of Hepatitis and Comparative Genomics over the last 10 years.  The committee made two recommendations regarding future Chimpanzee use, and listed criteria that should be met to study diseases or disorders in Chimpanzees:

  1. The National Institutes of Health should limit the use of chimpanzees in biomedical research to those studies that meet the following three criteria:
    1. There is no other suitable model available, such as in vitro, non-human in vivo, or other models, for the research in question, and
    2. The research in question cannot be performed ethically on human subjects, and
    3. Foregoing the use of chimpanzees for the research in question will significantly slow or prevent important advancements to prevent, control and/or treat life-threatening or debilitating conditions.
  2. The National Institutes of Health should limit the use of chimpanzees in comparative genomics and behavioral research to those studies that meet the following two criteria:
    1. Studies provide otherwise unattainable insight into comparative genomics, normal and abnormal behavior, mental health, emotion, or cognition, and
    2. All experiments are performed on acquiescent animals, using techniques that are minimally invasive, and in a manner that minimizes pain and distress.

The committee did not recommend the halting of Chimpanzee research, and concluded that there are sound reasons that they should continue to be used as they currently are, and note that future diseases and/or medical conditions may necessitate that Chimpanzees are used if no other animal models are adequate.

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