Research Chimps Go To Haven

December 21, 2012

All chimpanzees formerly used by the US federal government for biomedical research at New Iberia Research Center (NIRC) will be retired to Chimp Haven, a federal sanctuary in Keithville, Louisiana, according to a National Institute of Health press release earlier this week.

Chimp Haven can currently only accommodate about half of the chimpanzees and will be expanded, and NIH has extended its contract with NIRC until construction at Chimp Haven is complete. Previously it was uncertain how many chimpanzees would be able to move to Chimp Haven, and what would become of the others.

The announcement follows a year of remarkable developments regarding chimpanzees used in research, beginning in December 2011 with the Institute of Medicine (IOM) releasing its report on the necessity of chimpanzees for research, concluding that they were unnecessary except potentially in Hepatitis C vaccine research (on which the committee was split). The NIH adopted the IOM’s recommendations and guidelines upon their release; the retirement and relocation of the chimpanzees at NIRC is part of the NIH’s ongoing application of the committee’s guidelines.

Jeffrey Kahn, PhD, MPH, the Levi professor of bioethics and public policy at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, was chair of the IOM committee.  He made the following statement regarding the NIH’s announcement:

The plan to retire and relocate chimpanzees to Chimp Haven is a significant step in recognition of the decreasing need for the use of chimpanzees in research, and a creative solution for a difficult policy challenge. It is heartening to see that the IOM committee’s recommendations have raised the bar for the use of chimpanzees in research and led to real change in practice and policy.

Click on the links in this sentence to read more about the IOM committee report and a philosophical reflection on it from Berman Institute faculty member Hilary Bok.

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Jeffrey Kahn
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