The National Institutes of Health’s December 11, 2015, decision to phase out research with live non-human primates at Dr. Stephen Soumi’s Laboratory of Comparative Ethology in Poolesville, MD will have widespread—and unknown—effects on primate studies in the United States. Approximately 300 rhesus macaques will be transferred to unspecified locations in the next three years. Work on normal aging, epigenetics, animal welfare, maternal variation in infant brain function, and other research will be curtailed, as well as the laboratory’s specific work on infant development. NIH previously described this work as necessary. Now, all work with these animals will cease.
We do not know what the downstream research effects will be, but much inter-institutional and international collaboration—specifically directed to reducing the total number of rhesus monkeys in research—will be impacted. Over a dozen large-scale projects will be directly affected, involving more than 60 researchers from universities in the United States as well as institutions in Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada.
The American Society of Primatologists supports research with non-human primates that is carefully designed and employs rigorous research protocols. We believe that the decision by the NIH that curtails long-term, life-long data collection on rhesus macaques will negatively impact both human and non-human primate health.