NABR Update: May 30, 2018 – Feline Research, Regulatory Relief, Elon Musk’s Neural Interface

NABR Update: May 30, 2018 – Feline Research, Regulatory Relief, Elon Musk’s Neural Interface

May 30, 2018


Senate Appropriations Committee Critical of USDA Cat Research, Recommends Adoption Program

The Senate Appropriations Committee met on May 24 and passed their FY2019 Agriculture Appropriations Bill. This bill provides $145.1 billion in federal funding for agriculture, conservation, and nutrition programs which is $6.1 billion above the President’s budget request but $710 million below the FY2018 enacted level. Under this bill, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) would see $1.004 billion, which is $262 million above the President’s request and $18.4 million above the FY2018 enacted level. The bill was reported out of committee in a 31-0 vote. The bill has been placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders, Calendar number 438. No date is set for a floor vote at this time.

Within the Committee report is language critical of USDA’s use of cats in toxoplasmosis research and mandates adoption for research animals. Under the Public Health Research section of the report is stated, “The Committee strongly supports USDA research but is concerned about the use of cats in painful and terminal laboratory experiments at USDA’s Animal Parasitic Disease Laboratory. The Committee appreciates USDA’s responsiveness to concerns that have been raised and directs the agency to consult scientific and veterinary experts about the feasibility of implementing alternatives to the use of cats in public health research, and to develop a program to adopt out cats no longer needed in research. The Committee directs the Secretary to provide a report on its progress no later than 90 days after the enactment of this Act.” While committee report language does not hold the binding effect of enacted laws, federal agencies consistently follow the direction of such language.

Your Opportunity to Help Support Regulatory Relief

As you may be aware, Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC) introduced an amendment to the Farm Bill to address the need to provide regulatory relief for the nation’s animal researchers. The proposed change, as drafted by Rep. Rouzer, would replace the yearly mandate for USDA inspections at animal research facilities with “every three years.” This amendment makes NO CHANGE to the Agriculture Secretary’s ability to conduct inspections as frequently as he deems necessary.

NABR strongly supports this move towards regulatory relief for the biomedical research community and improved flexibility for the USDA to focus efforts on problematic facilities. The National Science Board (NSB) has reported that researchers spend as much as 42% of their time responding to regulatory and administrative burdens. Numerous reports, including the October 2010 reportby the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR), and the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR) have made recommendations for reducing regulatory burdens in biomedical research. Additionally, the 21st Century Cures Act signed into law on December 13, 2016 mandates that federal agencies work to reduce regulatory burden on the animal research community.

If your institution would like to send an individual letter of support or be added to the coalition letter, please contact Mike Dingell, NABR’s Vice President for Government Affairs, at mdingell@nabr.org. So far 39 organizations have joined the sign-on letter and 11 universities, associations, and societies have sent Congress their own letters.

Action Needed in Rhode Island: Legislators Need to Hear from YOU!

The Rhode Island State Senate is still considering H. 7414 and NABR needs your help opposing this bill. NABR has already submitted testimony on H.7414, legislation which would mandate animal research institutions work with third-party adoption organizations to find homes for dogs and cats upon completion of studies, despite the fact that research institutions regularly practice such adoptions.

Should the bill become law, more arduous restrictions on animal research, such as limits on the length of studies, overly burdensome reporting requirements, and expansion of coverage to include other species of animals become inherently more probable. Matt Rossell of Rescue + Freedom Project (former Beagle Freedom Project) has supported broadening the covered species in mandatory adoption legislation. If you are a Rhode Island resident, we urge you and your friends, family, and colleagues to please contact the Senate President, Majority Leader, and members of the Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee TODAY to OPPOSE H. 7414. Simply copy/paste the following email addresses into the “To:” section of your email:

sen-ruggerio@rilegislature.govsen-mccaffrey@rilegislature.govsen-sosnowski@rilegislature.govsen-coyne@rilegislature.govsen-calkin@rilegislature.govsen-archambault@rilegislature.govsen-conley@rilegislature.govsen-euer@rilegislature.govsen-miller@rilegislature.gov

Please keep your emails short, identify yourself as a member of the biomedical research community, and be direct, yet respectful, in asking that they oppose H. 7414. Even if you aren’t in Rhode Island you can still help by sharing this alert with anyone you may know there.

APHIS Will Not Recognize Third-Party Inspections and Certifications

On May 25, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) released a statement which reads, “it will not establish new criteria for recognizing third-party inspection and certification programs when determining the Agency’s own inspection frequency under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).”

APHIS had announced a series of public listening sessions starting in December of 2017 to hear feedback from the regulated community and others. APHIS also posted a Federal Register notice in January 2018 asking for written comments through March 21. In the end, APHIS received over 35,000 written comments, many of which were submitted by animal rights groups. APHIS asserts the vast majority of comments they received expressed concern with AWA compliance being in jeopardy if third-party inspections were utilized.

APHIS continues to support its risk-based inspection system when determining the frequency of their AWA inspections. You can view the listening session comments here and the Federal Register comments here.

CharityWatch Downgrades HSUS to “D” Rating

The Washington Times reported on May 28 that CharityWatch has downgradedthe Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to a “D” grade. According to CharityWatch, 48 percent of HSUS’s budget is spent on fundraising and overhead costs, making it a very poor shepherd of donors’ money. Yet HSUS claims roughly 80 percent of its budget is spent on programs, counting their spending on fundraising as “program spending.” HSUS claims their fundraisers are also educational, thus covered as program spending. This revelation comes on the heels of several controversies which have embroiled HSUS over the last few years including a nearly $11 million fraud-bribery lawsuit settlement in 2014 and CEO Wayne Pacelle being accused of inappropriate behavior before resigning.

DxE Activists Claim to be Facing 60 Years in Prison

As NABR has reported in the past few Updates, several Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) activists are facing multiple felony charges in Utah. Among those being charged is DxE co-founder Wayne Hsiung. Hsiung recently posted a video on the DxE website seeking signatures for a petition to the Utah Attorney General, asking for the charges against him and other activists to be dropped. In the video, Hsiung claims he and the other activists are facing up to 60 years in prison.

In an odd twist to this story, DxE and other animal rights activists also held a funeral procession and burial for a piglet in Berkeley, CA. The piglet was buried at Civic Center Park, across from the Old City Hall building. It was originally reported that the piglet was found at a Smithfield Foods farm in California, though DxE spokesman Matt Johnson later claimed that was not the case and that he did not know how the group obtained the piglet.

Elon Musk’s Neuralink Project Depends on NHP Research

It was reported last week by Gizmodo that Elon Musk’s brain-computer interface company, Neuralink, is funding nonhuman primate (NHP) research at the University of California – Davis. Neuralink seeks to create a brain-computer interface allowing a human user to communicate with computers using only their thoughts. Neuralink previously considered building their own lab in San Francisco, CA and conducting research with rodents, but ultimately Neuralink settled on an agreement with University of California and the research will be conducted at the UC Davis National Primate Center.

Non-Human Primates Critical to Development of New Migraine Medication

The Hill reported on May 17 that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new medication to prevent migraine headaches. The new drug is called erenumab-aooe, trademarked as Aimovig, and is produced by Amgen and Novartis. In trials, Aimovig helped patients experience at least a 50 percent reduction in the total number of days in which they suffered a migraine.

Nonhuman primate (NHP) research was critical to testing the drug’s safety for pregnant woman and their unborn children. The FDA states, “No adverse effects on offspring were observed when pregnant monkeys were administered erenumab-aooe throughout gestation. Serum erenumab-aooe exposures in pregnant monkeys were greater than those in humans at clinical doses.”

Non-Human Primates have been, and will continue to be, critical to medical research. The Foundation for Biomedical Research provides an excellent white paper and brochure on this topic, and we encourage NABR members to utilize both.

Biomedical Research in the Crosshairs at Animal Rights National Conference 2018

The Animal Rights National Conference (AR2018) is set to take place June 28-July 1 at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Los Angeles, CA. AR2018 is the largest and longest-running animal rights event in the U.S., dating back to 1981. AR2018 is being organized by Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM), an organization that wants to end the use of all animals for food.

Biomedical research is a perennial target at this conference, which is said to feature 170 presenters from 90 animal rights organizations. You can find a tentative copy of the schedule for AR2018 here: http://arconference.org/schedule.htm. Their website also lists a post-conference protest on Monday but details are not listed online. Among the speakers list are familiar anti-research voices such as Anthony Bellotti of the White Coat Waste Project (WCWP) and Michael Budkie from Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN). You can view the full speakers list here: http://arconference.org/speakers.htm. Both the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are notably absent from the sponsor list.

United States District Court Rebukes ALDF in FOIA Case

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) was rebuked by California’s Northern District of the United States District Court on May 25. The ALDF filed suitagainst the USDA over their processing time for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. FOIA provides for an expedited process if “failure to obtain requested records on an expedited basis under this paragraph could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual.” The ALDF filed for an expedited FOIA on behalf of a tiger, claiming the tiger was an “individual” as defined by FOIA. The court rejected such a claim by quoting Supreme Court precedent, “Although no court has addressed the definition of ‘individual’ in an identical context, the Supreme Court assessed the ordinary meaning of ‘individual’ as used in the Torture Victim Protection Act (“TVPA”). That court held that the ordinary meaning of ‘individual’ encompassed ‘natural persons alone,’ rejecting an argument that it included ‘nonsovereign organizations.’”

Register for the 5th Annual Symposium on Social Housing of Laboratory Animals

The 5th Annual Symposium on Social Housing of Laboratory Animals will be held June 4-5 at the National Agricultural Library in Beltsville, MD. The symposium is co-hosted by the USDA’s Animal Welfare Information Center, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW), the Johns Hopkins Department of Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology, and the Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT). Register now for the opportunity to learn about social housing, environmental enrichment, and lab animal behavior. Additionally, there are still spots available for a behind-the-scenes tour of the National Zoo in Washington D.C. on the morning of June 3.

In Memoriam: Michael A. Coiro, Sr., Founder of Allentown Inc.

It is with sadness that we inform you of the passing of Allentown Inc. founder Michael A. Coiro, Sr. He was a respected influence in the biomedical research community and will be missed by many. Funeral services will be held Friday, June 1 in Allentown, NJ. Memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society.

Animal Models for Precision Medicine

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convened a 2-day workshop on October 5 and 6, 2017, which was designed to focus on the development, implementation, and interpretation of model organisms to advance and accelerate the field of precision medicine. Participants examined the extent to which next-generation animal models, designed using patient data and phenotyping platforms targeted to reveal and inform disease mechanisms, will be essential to the successful implementation of precision medicine. You may download the proceedings here: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25002/advancing-disease-modeling-in-animal-based-research-in-support-of-precision-medicine?utm_source=Division+on+Earth+and+Life+Studies&utm_campaign=2850c91052-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_05_30_03_10&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3c0b1ad5c8-2850c91052-234486273

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2018-05-31T10:15:44+00:00