Research Facilities

Research Facilities With Chimpanzees

Southwest National Primate Research Center

Affiliated with Texas Biomedical Research Institute; review inspection reports here.

Approximate number of chimpanzees: 81

Texas Biomedical Research Institute
Southwest National Primate Research Center
P.O. Box 760549
San Antonio, TX 78245-0549

SNPRC Director: John L. VandeBerg, PhD
Website: http://txbiomed.org/primate-research-center

The Southwest National Primate Research Center (SNPRC) is one of seven federally supported National Primate Research Centers. The SNPRC is hosted by the Texas Biomedical Research Institute (Texas Biomed), a private research organization formerly known as the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, and is located on their 200-acre campus on the northwest side of San Antonio. In addition to chimpanzees, the SNPRC also houses rhesus macaques, marmosets, and is “home to the world’s largest colony of baboons for biomedical research,” presently roughly 1,400 baboons.1

The SNPRC’s research emphasis is on nonhuman primate models of human diseases, “including common chronic diseases and infectious diseases [such as AIDS and hepatitis] and the effects that genetics and the environment have on physiological processes and disease susceptibility.”2 They also conduct research involving the evaluation of therapeutic drugs and vaccines against viral agents. Texas Biomed is home to the nation’s only privately owned maximum containment laboratory, a Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) lab. This lab conducts experiments on animals using “deadly pathogens [such as those that cause Ebola, Dengue fever, SARS, etc.] for which there are no known treatments or vaccines.” Texas Biomed is “the only institution in the country to house both a BSL-4 lab and a national primate research center.”3

History

In 1999, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded funding to the Southwest Foundation (now Texas Biomed) for the establishment of the SNPRC. This funding allowed Texas Biomed to become “home to the first new national primate research center since the program was established in the 1960s. One of [seven] in the country, it is the only primate center in the Southwest.”4

In 2007, an inspection report from April 3rd revealed multiple USDA citations against SNPRC for AWA violations. The violations included a necropsy (animal autopsy) performed on a male baboon who was still alive. The USDA veterinarian who conducted the inspection stated, “euthanasia means the humane destruction of an animal accomplished by a method that produces rapid unconsciousness and subsequent death without evidence of pain or distress…euthanasia of one baboon was not accomplished as described above…it was not dead prior to the start of the necropsy procedure.” Several animal organizations filed official complaints against SNPRC with both the USDA and NIH.

Despite these violations, in 2010 the NIH announced that it would transfer all of the chimpanzees housed at the Alamogordo Primate Facility to the SNPRC for use in invasive research. This decision was eventually reversed following the release of a 2011 report from the Institute of Medicine.

Chimpanzee use

At the SNPRC, chimpanzees were used for research involving infectious diseases and the development of vaccines for hepatitis A and B. In the past, chimpanzees were also used in AIDS vaccine research. Texas Biomed had conducted research on nonhuman primates prior to the creation of the SNPRC and first initiated a breeding colony of chimpanzees in 1970.

Research

  • Studies on hepatitis A, B, and C, including vaccine development and drug therapies
  • Testing of a monoclonal antibody to treat lymphoma and hepatitis C
  • Comparative studies on brain structure and function between humans and nonhuman primates

Financials

In 2011, the SNPRC received $7,520,767 for grant P51RR013986, “Southwest National Primate Research Center.” Beginning in 1999, the SNPRC received over $81 million for this one grant alone.5 In 2011, the SNPRC also received between $2-3 million from NIH for “renovations [that] will include a combination of upgrading and expanding current chimpanzee facilities and converting macaque facilities to accommodate [the transfer of] chimpanzees [from APF].” NIH had anticipated that it would cost around $3 million per year to maintain the SNPRC’s chimpanzee population.6

Texas Biomed itself has an annual budget of nearly $55 million. Of this, “approximately two-thirds… is funded by…grants from the National Institutes of Health and other funding agencies, while another 11 percent comes from contracts with biotechnology and pharmaceutical firms. Remaining expenses are met by…foundations, corporations and individuals, as well as earnings from Texas Biomed's permanent endowment.”7


Sources

(1) Texas Biomedical Research Institute. (n.d.). Primates. Retrieved from http://snprc.org/primates-2/

(2) National Center for Research Resources. (n.d.). Primate Resources. Retrieved from www.ncrr.nih.gov/comparative_medicine/resource_directory/primates.asp#unila

(3) Texas Biomedical Research Institute. (n.d.). Biosafety Level 4 Laboratory. Retrieved from http://txbiomed.org/about/extraordinary-resources/biosafety-level-4-laboratory

(4) Texas Biomedical Research Institute. (n.d.). Nonhuman Primates. Retrieved from http://txbiomed.org/about/extraordinary-resources/nonhuman-primates

(5) Tracking Accountability in Government Grants System. (n.d.). TAGGS. Available from http://taggs.hhs.gov/

(6) National Center for Research Resources. (2010, September 23). Transfer of Chimpanzees from Alamogordo Primate Facility to Southwest National Primate Research Center. NIH Press Release.

(7) Texas Biomedical Research Institute. (n.d.). About Texas Biomed. Retrieved from http://txbiomed.org/About/texas-biomedical-research/facility

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