Institute of Medicine Questions Scientific Need for Chimpanzee Research

Pho­to: Chim­panzee being used for space research by the U.S. Air Force in the 1960s.

The Insti­tute of Med­i­cine con­vened an ad hoc com­mit­tee to answer two impor­tant ques­tions:

  • Is bio­med­ical research with chim­panzees “nec­es­sary for research dis­cov­er­ies and to deter­mine the safe­ty and effi­ca­cy of new pre­ven­tion or treat­ment strate­gies?”
  • Is behav­ioral research using chim­panzees “nec­es­sary for progress in under­stand­ing social, neu­ro­log­i­cal and behav­ioral fac­tors that influ­ence the devel­op­ment, pre­ven­tion, or treat­ment of dis­ease?”

The com­mit­tee was asked to con­sid­er only sci­en­tif­ic ques­tions, not ques­tions relat­ed to ethics or costs. The committee’s report con­clud­ed that most cur­rent use of chim­panzees for bio­med­ical research is unnec­es­sary and that the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health should put strict lim­its on the use of chim­panzees as research sub­jects. The NIH has already announced a freeze on new grants for chim­panzee exper­i­men­ta­tion.

Some mem­bers of Con­gress want to out­law all exper­i­men­ta­tion on great apes, includ­ing chim­panzees (H.R. 1513: The Great Ape Pro­tec­tion and Cost Sav­ings Act).

Update: H.R. 1513 was not enact­ed.

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