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INSATIABLE SADISM: Smuggling scandal has scientists crying for more domestic monkey breeding programs

Seven NIH funded, US-based breeding facilities currently have about 20,000-25,000 primates, but scientists say they are not enough to meet demand and need more funding.

JAMIE SMYTH: Scientists have urged the US government to increase investment in lab monkey breeding programmes as a smuggling scandal in Cambodia risks worsening a shortage of test animals that is hurting the life sciences sector… Surging demand for lab monkeys during Covid-19, a ban on exports from China and underfunding of domestic breeding programmes in the US have disrupted the NHP supply chain and caused prices to triple, according to industry experts.

Two of the largest suppliers of lab monkeys to the pharmaceutical industry, US-listed Charles River and Inotiv, recently warned investors they expect disruption to US imports from Cambodia, the nation’s largest supplier of NHPs. It follows the indictment by Federal prosecutors last month of eight people — including two senior Cambodian government officials — who were allegedly involved in running a smuggling ring which illegally exported wild monkeys to the US for research purposes…

The National Institutes of Health said there is an ongoing challenge to supply an adequate supply of NHPs for biomedical research due to the shortage but condemned all illegal trade of animals… Matthew Bailey, president at the National Association for Biomedical Research, an industry group claims “It is of crucial importance to public health and national security.” Bailey said Washington should explore public private partnerships and other investment options to boost domestic breeding…

PETA, an animal rights group, said researchers’ reliance on lab monkeys was outdated as there are much better human-relevant research methods available. Lisa Jones-Engel, Peta’s senior science adviser, said US scientists had never been successful at breeding complex, sensitive monkeys without appallingly high death rates. “That’s why they’ve been willing to buy animals kidnapped from their own homes in Asia, Africa and South America . . . We have to stop the monkey experimenters from hijacking the funds needed to implement them.”

Academics can source animals from seven national primate research centres, which are US-based breeding facilities funded by the National Institutes of Health. But the centres, which together have about 20,000-25,000 animals, say they do not have enough animals to meet demand and need more funding, the directors of two facilities told the FT… Supplies of the most popular monkey species used by pharmaceutical companies for research, long-tailed macaques, have been strained for several years due to strong demand from researchers and limited US-based breeding programmes.

A 2020 export ban levied by China — which at the time was the largest supplier to the US — during Covid-19 caused the price of lab monkeys to triple between 2019-22, according to research by Evercore ISI. Evercore estimates the average prices of lab monkeys in 2019-20 was between $4,000-$7,000. In 2020-21 this increased to $10,000 and in 2021-22 it increased again to between $20,000-$24,000. Evercore forecasts prices will rise again to $30,000-$35,000 in 2023. SOURCE…


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