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NABR Update – August 29, 2018

August 29, 2018

Senate Passes FY2019 Labor-HHS Spending Bill without Chimpanzee Retirement Amendment

On August 15, the U.S. Senate began debate on their version of the Fiscal Year 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Funding Bill which culminated in a 85-7 vote on August 23. The bill, S. 3158, was rolled into a “minibus” with the House version of the FY2019 defense spending bill, H.R. 6157. The bill contains $39.1 billion in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an increase from the FY 2018 budget providing $26.9 billion.

A proposed amendment that did not make it into the minibus was Senate Amendment 3757, introduced by Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Tom Udall (D-NM). In an effort to expedite the transfer of retired NIH chimpanzees from medical research centers to the Chimp Haven sanctuary, the amendment sought to prohibit funds from being spent to support chimpanzees currently waiting to be transferred to the federal sanctuary unless the NIH issues plans by November 1, 2018. The amendment also put the determination of which animals are eligible for transfer in the authority of two veterinarians with experience treating chimpanzees, a behaviorist, a bioethicist, and an anesthesiologist, none of whom are permitted to be currently or recently employed by a laboratory. This amendment did not make it into the passed version of the bill.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) on August 15, criticizing the spending bill’s non-defense allocations which exceed the President’s budget request by $11.8 billion. In a further deviation from the President’s proposed FY 2019 budget, on page 5 of the SAP, the administration expressed its disappointment that the minibus does not consolidate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, within the NIH. Despite the letter being critical of this minibus, there is no threat of a veto in the letter.

The House has yet to approve their own FY2019 Labor-HHS bill (H.R. 470) and there is the possibility that a version of the Cassidy amendment noted above may be proposed in the House bill. If that were to happen, it would likely become an item for consideration in any conference committee.

NABR President Matthew Bailey expressed concerns about the Cassidy amendment in an interview with ALN noting, “We had some concerns about the language used in this bill. First, it was written so that it would not allow input by veterinarians at research facilities. When you consider that these experts have had longstanding knowledge of these animals, they are the people best able to determine what is best for these chimpanzees. The short deadline of 2021 is also concerning. Experts need ample time to examine, confer, and determine the transfer of these animals to ensure animal welfare. Space is currently very limited at Chimp Haven and other sanctuaries. Rushing this process could result in overcrowding or even additional taxpayer costs, if new facilities are needed.”

NABR has not been the only critic of the Cassidy amendment either. The Federalist published a piece on August 23 that was critical of the Senator for wasting precious Senate floor time on the chimpanzee relocation issue. The article concludes, “Republicans should stop the primate-related sideshows and focus on things that really matter.” In addition, NPR’s Nell Greenfieldboyce also covered this issue with her interview titled, “Too Frail To Retire? Humans Ponder The Fate Of Research Chimps.”

President Trump’s Nominee for Science Advisor Committed to Science Over Politics

Nature reported on August 23 that President Donald Trump’s nominee for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Meteorologist Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, said that science should be conducted without political influence or interference.

Droegemeier was Vice President for Research at the University of Oklahoma-Norman from 2009 until August of 2018. He also served on the National Science Board under both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Droegemeier is the current Secretary of Science and Technology for Oklahoma.

During his August 23 Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee nomination hearing, Droegemeier stated, “Science never provides immutable evidence about anything. I think science is the loser when we tend to vilify and marginalize other voices. We need to have everyone at the table.” The quote was from a segment where Droegemeier was questioned about climate change, though his attitudes towards science trumping politics is important and interesting to note especially since it is regarding an equally controversial research topic.

Droegemeier also emphasized the need to be competitive in research regarding China, telling the Committee, “We need to make sure we are the strongest research center in the world.” This is an interesting point since The Scientist reported on August 21 that primate research is dropping in the west while China is positioning itself to be a global leader in that sphere.

The Committee is set to vote on August 29 on whether to advance Droegemeier’s nomination to the full Senate.

Your Comments Needed for NIH Sepsis RFI

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a Request for Information (RFI) on July 23 entitled, “Strategies for Advancing Sepsis Research Supported by NIGMS.” Dr. Judith Greenberg, the Deputy Director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), released a statement on this RFI.

The stated goal of this RFI is to, “obtain feedback, comments, novel ideas and strategies that address the challenges and opportunities in sepsis research to accelerate advances in detection of and treatment for this condition.” Among the information requested is the, “utility of current animal models, including the possible use of research organisms other than the standard mouse models.”

NABR strongly encourages our member institutions who conduct sepsis research to respond to this RFI with comments on the necessity of animal models. Responses will be accepted through August 31 and can be submitted here:

Opinion Piece by FBR, NABR President in Houston Chronicle: Animal Research is Crucial to Pets and their Owners

Last Tuesday, the Houston Chronicle featured an opinion piece by NABR and Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) President Matthew Bailey discussing how pet lovers should be supportive of animal research. Further exemplifying FBR’s Love Animals? Support Animal Research campaign, Bailey’s piece titled, “Animal research is crucial for pets and their owners,”shows directly how researchers are doing everything from helping eradicate cancer to developing new anti-inflammatory drugs, so our pets can live lover, happier, and healthier lives.

“Animal research has already saved, and will continue to save, millions of pets’ lives. Without animal research, how many of our cats would be dying prematurely of leukemia? Or how many of our dogs would be unable to run and play because of debilitating arthritic pain,” writes Bailey. Bailey notes how researchers are testing a cancer vaccine with dogs, working on helping cats with failing kidneys, and searching for the first definitive non-invasive diagnostic test for feline infectious peritonitis. Please take a moment to leave a positive comment in support of Bailey’s opinion piece by clicking here.

PETA Continues Campaign Against LSU Bird Researcher Christine Lattin

The People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) held a demonstration at Louisiana State University (LSU) last Tuesday at the Student Union to protest research by Assistant Professor Christine Lattin. From PETA’s Twitter post it looks as if only four people showed up. Readers will recall that Lattin was previously targeted by PETA in 2017 while at Yale University for her research with sparrows. Her research has centered on how to “improve our understanding of the impact of stress on animals and humans.”

As a reminder, should you or your institution find yourself facing activist activity from opponents of animal research, please do not hesitate to contact us for assistance. If you haven’t yet, please download a copy of NABR’s Crisis Management Guide to learn tips and suggestions for dealing with these types of situations.

Mark your Calendars for NABR’s October Webinar

NABR will be hosting our next webinar, “Advocating for Sound Public Policy: The Challenges and Opportunities for Participating in the Process” on Tuesday, October 9. In this webinar, we will discuss what constitutes sound public policy, how NABR engages in that process, and —most importantly— what NABR members can do to assist.

For example, in the past year, the research community has been afforded opportunities to respond to Requests for Information (RFI) on reducing regulatory burden from the USDA, the NIH, and the FDA. These RFIs have provided the research community an excellent opportunity to advocate for the development and implementation of improved regulations, policies, and guidelines.

On July 25, the Health subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce (E&C) committee held a hearing titled “21st Century Cures Implementation: Updates from FDA and NIH.” During that hearing NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins responded to questions concerning the regulatory relief mandate in the 21st Century Cures Act. In this webinar we will discuss how NABR formulates responses to those RFIs and we will review how the research community can participate in these processes, draft their own responses, and engage in the policy process to have a significant impact on the environment in which we all work.

Click here to reserve your spot!

Research!America Provides Microgrants for Midterm Election Advocacy

Research!America announced on Wednesday that they would be providing microgrants between $1,000 and $5,000 through their Bipartisan Civic Engagement Initiative to ten graduate student and post-doc led science policy groups engaging with lawmakers leading up to the midterm elections in November. The goal of these grants is to encourage young researchers to highlight the benefits that their work brings to society.

Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America said that, “Scientific research is the cornerstone of a thriving society and should be part of the national conversation during an election year,” adding, “This initiative will help enable scientists call attention to how scientific research, particularly studies conducted at their local institutions, has contributed to better health, a stronger economy and strengthened our competitive edge in the development of new technologies.

The following institutions have been selected for Research!America’s microgrants: University of California San Diego, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Johns Hopkins University, University of California-San Francisco, University of Missouri, Vanderbilt University, University of Washington, University of Wisconsin, University of Virginia, and Medical University of South Carolina. As part of their efforts, these groups will invite the public and candidates to town halls, science cafes, lab tours, science debates, workshops, and launch social media campaigns to reach a broader audience.

You can read more about this story here:

The Onion Reports Fictitious PETA Campaign Against BBC

You may have heard that on August 21, the fictional comedy news source The Onion reported that PETA is condemning the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for trapping thousands of wild animals inside television screens. Lisa Lange, PETA senior vice president of communications, is quoted by The Onion as saying: “It is disgusting the way the BBC keeps these endangered species confined inside TV screens when they should be out running wild in their natural habitats.”

This story by The Onion comes on the heels of PETAs full-court press against Nabisco Animal Crackers, where PETA argued that the classic box highlighted a bygone era of animal exploitation. Emancipated from their imaginary confines, these sketched animals are now able to roam free.

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