An independent committee of experts through the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released their report today regarding whether chimpanzees are necessary for biomedical and behavioral research. While they did not call for the immediate end to all research involving chimpanzees, they developed some very strict criteria for evaluating current and future scientific projects.
The committee was not tasked with the question of whether it was ethical to use chimpanzees in research, however they stated, “the committee feels strongly that any assessment of the necessity of using chimpanzees as an animal model raises ethical issues, and an analysis of necessity must take these ethical issues into account.”
The committee looked at all areas of current chimpanzee research receiving federal funds and concluded that, “most (emphasis added) current use of chimpanzees for biomedical research is unnecessary, based on the criteria established by the committee…”
As Dr. Pippin, a cardiologist and former animal researcher who was representing the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine said, the release of this study is a “watershed moment” for chimpanzees. Now it is up to the NIH to decide how to respond to this report from the committee they commissioned. Their response is expected shortly.
Read a good summary of the report here from NPR news. A more detailed article from the New York Times. And the full report here from the National Academies Press.
*Update – the NIH Director’s response is here. The Director of NIH says, “I have considered the report carefully and have decided to accept the IOM committee recommendations.”