Approximate number of chimpanzees: 4
9600 Medical Center Drive
Rockville, MD 20850
Review inspection reports here.
In June 2012, BIOQUAL announced that it will be ending its use of chimpanzees in research and returning them to the New Iberia Research Center (NIRC) where they were born. For over 25 years, BIOQUAL has received federal funding for nonhuman primate research and conducted invasive biomedical experiments on chimpanzees involving infectious diseases and drug and vaccine testing.
As an independent research facility located near the National Institutes of Health (NIH), BIOQUAL provides research services for government labs and pharmaceutical companies and carries out research on mice, rats, guinea pigs, ferrets, rabbits, and nonhuman primates involving “immunology, antibody production and preclinical vaccine evaluation” along with “breeding, housing and handling virus-infected mice, genetically manipulated mice and chimeric mice…in support of immunology research.”1
Formerly known as SEMA, the facility was the subject of a 1987 undercover investigation by True Friends, an animal rights group. True Friends documented the horrendous conditions and treatment endured by chimpanzees at the lab and the footage was released to the public in a 13-minute film produced by PETA called Breaking Barriers.2 The horrific conditions in which the facility kept its chimpanzees were corroborated by the famous primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall who commented:
“When I visited there in March of 1987, I saw pairs of three-year-old chimps crammed into cages measuring 22 inches by 22 inches and two feet high. Each cage was pushed into something that looked like a microwave oven with a little panel of glass at the top. The only contact with the outside world was through a vent with air roaring in. It was so dark in those cages that the technicians had to use flashlights to see what the chimps were doing.”3
In 2012, BIOQUAL was again accused of mistreating primates and a Petition for Enforcement Action was filed with the federal government. The petition claims that BIOQUAL was unlawfully placing chimpanzees in solitary confinement and using them in unnecessary experiments, and it asserts that the chimpanzees were suffering physical and psychological harm in violation of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).4
Through various multi-million dollar contracts with NIH, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), young chimpanzees at BIOQUAL have been used in research studies on hepatitis C, malaria, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), norovirus, liver disease, and Alzheimer’s Disease. Chimpanzees younger than two years old are typically used in RSV studies, and one recently completed study funded by NIH involved six young chimpanzees between the ages of two and eight who were infected with norovirus and subjected to months of liver biopsies.5
In 2009, there were approximately 30 chimpanzees held at BIOQUAL according to personal correspondence with Dr. Mark Lewis, Vice President of Research. In 2012, there were reportedly 15 chimpanzees housed at the facility; as of July, 11 chimpanzees have already been transferred to NIRC. The remaining chimpanzees include three-year-old Loretta who “just completed a two-year study probing how malaria parasites resist [the drugs] chloroquine and artemisinin,” and three other chimpanzees, Ricky age 7 and Tiffany and Torian age 4, who are still being used in a liver disease study. Once transferred, BIOQUAL scientists hope “to follow the animals [Ricky, Tiffany, and Torian] for several years after their return to the NIRC, drawing blood and taking liver biopsies at intervals to track the slowly developing disease.”6
(1) BIOQUAL, Inc. (no date). Small Laboratory Animal Sciences. Accessed July 30, 2012.
(2) Cantor, D. (2004). Items of Property.
(3) Russell, G. (1990, Spring). Reaching Across the Species Barrier: Jane Goodall on Chimpanzees. Orion.
(4) PCRM. (2012, June). Unlawful Chimpanzee Experiments at Bioqual. PCRM Online.
(5) PETA. (2011, December 21). BIOQUAL Conducts Chimpanzee Experiments Now Deemed Unnecessary by Government Panel. PETA Press Release.
(6) Wadman, M. (2012, July 6). Activists Call for Final NIH Research Chimps to be Retired. Scientific American, originally posted by Nature.