Chimp traffic & AIDS rumors

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 1995:

SUMMERVILLE, S.C. – – An
early-November rumor reaching International
Primate Protection League president Shirley
McGreal indicates that for the first time a
chimpanzee has developed HIV, the human
form of AIDS, 10 years after experimental
infection at the Yerkes Regional Primate
Center in Atlanta. Previously, chimps have
only developed SIV, or simian AIDS.
“The chimp to date is not yet sick,”
McGreal said. “The possible finding at Yerkes
may explain some recent movement of chimps:
lots of possible drug contracts. Most chimps
used for AIDS research in the U.S. are captiveborn,
but we may see foreign drug companies
or nonprofits set up to serve U.S. firms, which
would get them access to chimps barred from
commercial trade byConvention on
International Trade in Endangered Species.”


McGreal relayed her information to
ANIMAL PEOPLE, looking for more, at
almost the same time Ming-Lee Yeh, U.S.
representative for the Life Conservationist
Association of Taiwan, posted an Internet
appeal for help in fighting a proposal by Vilab
II, a chimpanzee research project owned by
the New York Blood Center, to relocate a
colony of 65 chimps to Taiwan from Liberia.
The colony produces about 10 offspring a year.
Information received from Dr. G. Agoramoorthy,
Taiwan representative of the Great Ape
Project, indicated that the chimps would be
used in the development of HIV and hepatitis
vaccines.
“Establishing a primate center in
Taiwan would probably be a disaster to the
animals, because Taiwan does not have any
regulation of animal experiments,” Ming-Lee
said. “If someone wants to do something
unsupervised, Taiwan will be a safe haven.”
The Vilab project was previously
controversial in 1991, after the Liberian site
was overrun by rebel troops during the
Liberian civil war, and many chimps were
killed and eaten––including some believed to
be carrying the deadly hepatitis B virus.
The Yerkes rumor circulated after
Kansas University Medical Center researcher
Dr. Bill Narayan on October 12 announced his
team had inculcated HIV in two species of rhesus
macacques; Susan Barnett of Chiron
Corporation in Emeryville, California,
announced on October 16 the infection of six
baboons with HIV, including two who have
developed “full-blown” AIDS; and University
of Washington Regional Primate Research
Center pathologist and veterinarian Che-Chung
Tsai on November 16 escalated the research
stakes by unveiling experimental results indicating
that PMPA, a “nuceotide analogue,” is
“the most effective drug we’ve seen” in preventing
AIDS from developing in monkeys
exposed to SIV.
Rights to make PMPA belong to
Gilead Sciences, of Foster City, California.
Coulston connection?
If word of the AIDS research breakthroughs
reached chimp broker Frederick
Coulston in advance of formal presentation of
the data, it could explain his aggressive acquisition
of the Laboratory for Experimental
Medicine and Surgery In Primates from New
York University last summer, over the opposition
of founder Jan Moor Jankowski. MoorJankowski
was ousted from LEMSIP––on the
verge of retirement––and his 225 chimps were
“sold” to Coulston for apparently only the cost
of removing them, after Moor-Jankowski
resigned from the NYU Animal Care and Use
Committee over the failure of the university to
respond decisively to the neglect of primates
used in addictive drug experiments by fellow
NYU researcher Dr. Ronald Wood. The
experiments were finally suspended last spring
after the USDA charged Wood with 378
Animal Welfare Act violations.
National Institute on Drug Abuse
funding for Wood’s work expired in August,
but according to Louis R. Sibal, Ph.D., director
of the Office of Laboratory Animal
Research for the Department of Health and
Human Services, a National Institutes of
Health review of Woods’ experiments cleared
him of wrongdoing on August 17––a finding
independent of the pending resolution of the
USDA complaints––and recommended that
the experiments continue.
“On the basis of these evaluations,”
Sibal said, “it is highly likely that NIDA will
resume funding this project in the near future.”
Washington
Che-Chung Tsai’s breakthrough at
the Washington Regional Primate Center also
may have major implications for the future of
that facility, which for more than a year has
been embroiled in internal conflict and is
believed by some sources to be at risk of
phase-out due to federal budget cuts.
While details of the internal problems
are sparse, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
in March revealed that former staffer Linda
Pfeiffer allegedly embezzled $38,352 in animal
care funds; the New Orleans T i m e s –
Picayune said in April that USDA Cooperative
Research Service executive John Patrick
Jordan had been transferred from Washington
to the Southern Regional Primate Center in
Covington, Louisiana, as a form of discipline
for allegedly improperly awarding contracts;
and a USDA Animal and Plant Health
Inspection Service press release dated July 17
reported AWA violations at the Washington
primate facility resulting in the deaths of five
baboons and a monkey.
Information leaked to A N I M A L
PEOPLE in mid-November added claims that
the University of Washington had been fined
$20,000 for the AWA violations; that another
researcher had been disciplined for performing
“corrosive” terminal experiments on primates
without IACUC approval; and that the primate
center will soon be moved to a newer but
smaller site near American Lake, Washington,
which will require significantly reducing the
present inventory of 1,200 monkeys and 1,200
baboons.
Washington Regional Primate
Center chief William R. Morton, DVM,
ignored an invitation to comment.
The AIDS research breakthroughs
give greater urgency to the efforts of Primarily
Primates [see page 3] to obtain eight nonbreeding
chimps from the financially struggling
Buckshire Corporation, who otherwise
would be candidates for AIDS research.

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