Washington Update

FASEB Signs Community Letter on Importance of Animal Research

By: Naomi Charalambakis
Wednesday, June 22, 2022
On June 13, FASEB joined 45 members of the biomedical research community in signing a letter addressed to the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee outlining the role of federally funded animal research in sustaining scientific progress. The LHHS Subcommittee is responsible for allocating funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

The letter requests House appropriators include language in its funding bill that supports the following areas related to animal research: 
  • Large animal foundational and translational research; 
  • Availability, transportation, and protected use of nonhuman primates; and 
  • Reduced administrative burden for investigators and institutions. 
Regarding large animal research, the letter emphasizes how studies in canines and nonhuman primates have enabled profound advancements in basic science and clinical research, including vaccines and therapies for patients diagnosed with cancer and neurological diseases. While nonanimal models such as organs-on-chips   and computer models are an emerging field of study, the letter underscores that these methods cannot be used alone to replace all animal studies because they do not provide comprehensive insight into mechanisms affecting the whole body.

Additionally, the letter urges the House LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee to acknowledge the critical need for nonhuman primate research and provide additional funding for NIH and the National Primate Research Centers. In addition to highlighting the value and continued need for nonhuman primates in biomedical and vaccine research, the letter emphasizes how the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the challenges associated with supply and demand for this species. As a result, numerous scientists have delayed, and sometimes temporarily halted, ongoing studies into other diseases that rely on nonhuman primates, including tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and Alzheimer’s. To maintain U.S. leadership in science and technology, the letter recommends providing the necessary funds researchers need to conduct their research and swiftly respond when the country faces challenging times.

Finally, the letter encourages House appropriators to include language in its funding bill that directs NIH to provide a list of steps the agency intends to take over the next year to reduce administrative burden. As a key goal of the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act passed in December 2016, the letter reiterates that investigators spend nearly half of their research time consumed by paperwork and other forms of regulatory burden. Although NIH has taken a few steps to harmonize federal policies related to animal research, the letter specifies how several concerns remain unaddressed more than five years after the law’s enactment. Therefore, increased levels of administrative burden continue to unnecessarily delay essential research studies that can benefit human and animal health. 

With fiscal year 2023 appropriations underway, the letter and its associated “asks” were transmitted to the House LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee during a key time of funding deliberations. The House LHHS Subcommittee is scheduled to hold its markup hearing on June 23.