Washington Update

PRIM&R Conference Focuses on Strengthening Animal Care Programs

By: Naomi Charalambakis
Thursday, April 22, 2021

On April 14-16, Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIM&R) hosted its virtual Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) annual conference, an event designed to discuss the unique needs of IACUCs and ways to strengthen animal care programs. The three-day meeting covered various topics, ranging from federal agency oversight processes to nonhuman primate (NHP) supply and availability.

A session on federal agency updates on animal welfare oversight programs was among the conference sessions. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) were among the represented agencies, each providing summaries on ongoing and future agency priorities. Paula Knapp, Animal Welfare Policy Scientist at NIH OLAW, discussed the agency’s efforts to finalize policy changes in response to the 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act), the 2016 law requiring federal agencies to revise inconsistent policies regarding the care and use of laboratory animals. Robert Gibbens, DVM, Director of Animal Welfare Operations at USDA, also reviewed the agency’s progress to implement the Cures Act and highlighted its transition to in-person research facility inspections in areas that are safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another session focused on the nation’s short supply of NHPs and its potential impact on current and future public health crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Speakers John Hasenau, Principal Consultant at Laboratory Animal Consultants, and Jay Rappaport, PhD, Director of the Tulane National Primate Research Center, discussed the effects of China terminating NHP exports at the beginning of the pandemic. This decision resulted in a 21 percent decline in U.S. NHP imports between fiscal years 2019 and 2020. The shift in global supply and distribution of NHPs is further complicated by the ongoing dispute between the research community and airlines that have ceased transport of animals for research purposes. As the premier model to study a wide range of diseases, Rappaport underscored why NHP research, supply, and availability remain a strategic issue for the U.S. to address future health emergencies, echoing key points highlighted in the December FASEB webinar, “Combatting COVID-19: The Critical Role of Nonhuman Primate Research.”

Although session recordings and conference materials are limited to registrants, the PRIM&R and FASEB websites feature additional information and resources on animal research oversight mechanisms and their role in sustaining scientific progress.