Washington Update

FASEB Letters to House and Senate Leadership Emphasize Importance of Animal Research

By: Naomi Charalambakis
Thursday, May 12, 2022
On May 3, FASEB submitted letters to the House and Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittees (House letter; Senate letter) outlining its animal research priorities for fiscal year (FY) 2023. As the subcommittee responsible for allocating funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the letters emphasize the role of NIH-funded animal research in maintaining U.S. scientific and economic leadership. Specifically, FASEB addresses the following key issues:

•    Large animal translational research
•    Availability and transportation of nonhuman primates
•    Scientific infrastructure
•    Reducing administrative burden

To ensure scientists have the resources and expertise necessary to sustain research progress, FASEB urges the House and Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittees to provide support for large animal translational research. While the majority of research proposals (e.g., more than 95 percent) involve small animals such as rodents, the letters underscore the critical need for larger species—canines, felines, nonhuman primates, pigs, and ferrets—to answer complex scientific and public health questions. Additionally, the letters acknowledge Congress’ inclination for researchers to use nonanimal models such as organs on a chip and computer simulations but caution that these methods cannot provide comprehensive insight into mechanisms affecting the whole body, including complicated diseases and disorders. 

The FASEB letters also highlight the ongoing shortage and lack of transportation for nonhuman primates, animals that remain vital for vaccine research and development. This issue was further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced many investigators to pause studies into other diseases that rely on nonhuman primates, including tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. To mitigate the risk of U.S. investigators pursuing research opportunities overseas where resources are more abundant, FASEB urges the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees to formulate a plan that ensures the long-term support, breeding locations, and veterinary oversight of nonhuman primates in the United States. This includes support for the National Primate Research Centers. 

Finally, FASEB encourages the House and Senate to include language that directs NIH to take additional steps toward fulfilling the 21st Century Cures Act. This 2016 law calls on the agency to reduce administrative burden for animal researchers by eliminating inconsistent and duplicative policies. While implementation remains in progress, FASEB emphasizes that numerous policy concerns remain unaddressed more than five years after the law’s enactment, which risks delaying essential research studies.