Created by on 05/17/2011

On Thursday, May 12, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) sent letters to all members of Congress urging them to oppose the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act (GAPCSA). This billwould ban invasive research involving bonobos, gorillas, gibbons, orangutans, and chimpanzees based in part on the questionable premise that doing so would save money. The term invasive is defined in such a way as to preclude the use of these animals in nearly any biomedical research application. Despite the small number of great apes used in biomedical research, their role is extremely valuable. Chimpanzees remain the only valid research model for studying chronic hepatitis C and for the development and safety testing of life-saving monoclonal antibodies. Not only is research on great apes important for human health, it has impacts on the health of endangered, wild apes, which are affected by diseases such as Ebola and influenza. In the FASEB letter, President Dr. William Talman pointed out that, “If adopted, this bill will not only prohibit needed research for human diseases, but it will prevent research on behalf of these animals—inevitably harming the ones the legislation seeks to protect.”  

FASEB members appreciate the need to reduce the numbers of animals used in biomedical research. The use of chimpanzees is highly regulated to ensure that they are absolutely necessary for the work proposed, as few animals as possible are used, and they are treated humanely. This legislation, however, goes too far by completely eliminating the use of great apes. Since the Institute of Medicine is in the process of assessing the current and future need of chimpanzees in biomedical and behavioral research (see related article in this newsletter), enacting this legislation would be premature and would inhibit medical advances and the quest to improve human and animal health through new treatments and vaccines. The FASEB letter concludes by urging members of Congress not to support GAPCSA.