What are the National Primate Research Centers (NPRCs)?

The National Primate Research Centers (NPRCs) are a national network of researchers searching for the causes, preventions, treatments and cures that will improve human health and lives worldwide. The NPRCs also serve as a resource to researchers worldwide.

What are some of the NPRC’s important research breakthroughs?

NPRC research continues to reveal the causes of health issues and results in the development of preventions, treatments and cures that are helping people across generations and the world live longer, healthier lives. Examples include HIV prevention, a cure for hepatitis C, deep brain stimulation to treat Parkinson’s disease and approval of the immunosuppressive medication Belatacept for use with kidney transplants patients, as well as current advancements in brain-machine interfaces.

What standards govern the care of animals in research?

The NPRCs follow regulations and guidelines established by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) via the Animal Welfare Act, and institutional animal care and use committees. Also, all NPRCs maintain AAALAC International accreditation, which is the gold standard in animal care. AAALAC is a private, nonprofit organization that promotes the humane treatment of animals in scientific research.

What kinds of monkeys are part of medical research?

Rhesus macaques are the primary species used in NPRC research programs because of the biological links between their systems and those of humans. Research programs also include baboons, cynomolgus and pigtail macaques, marmosets and squirrel monkeys. Animal species are carefully matched to research studies to ensure valid scientific results that will be applicable to human health.

What is life like for the NPRC animals?

Most animals at the NPRCs are socially housed in groups of 2 to 200, and NPRC behavioral management employees provide species-typical behaviors, including opportunities to forage, groom and play. These efforts as well as the daily health-care attention the animals receive mean their life expectancy is far greater than that of an animal living in the wild that faces predators, untreated disease and food shortages.

How many monkeys are housed at NPRC facilities?

The NPRCs have more than 22,000 animals, including baboons, three species of macaques, marmosets and squirrel monkeys. The centers also have rodents, including mice, rats and voles.

Who supplies the monkeys for research?

Each center maintains a breeding colony of animals that veterinary, colony management and genetic personnel oversee. Sometimes, in order to meet specifications of research protocols, the NPRCs may purchase animals from independent breeders who are also subject to strict USDA oversight.

Do the NPRCs have to conduct research with monkeys?

Research with monkeys is undertaken when questions cannot be answered other ways. Because nonhuman primates are genetically similar to humans, this makes them ideal models for human health research.

Why can’t the NPRCs use computer models?

Researchers use computer models, and cell cultures, when appropriate, and doing so does reduce the number of animals used in research. There is, however, no way to completely replace research with animals because it is not yet possible to fully duplicate a functioning, living system.

Why can’t the NPRCs use mice?

The NPRCs do use mice and other rodents in center research, but their living systems can only tell so much. Researchers may use mice to address their first questions and then move to monkeys to further address the most promising outcomes from the rodent-based research studies. This continuum helps reduce the number of animals necessary for valid answers. It also accounts for the genetic closeness of nonhuman primates to humans to provide researchers with a comprehensive and comparable research model.

If there were no NPRCs, what effect would that have on medical research and human wellness?

Without access to nonhuman primates in research, medical progress would be drastically slowed and, in some cases, stopped. A delay in finding causes, preventions, treatments and cures could mean shorter and unhealthy lives, which is contrary to the NPRC vision of people across generations and the world living longer, healthier lives.

Who takes care of the monkeys?

Board-certified veterinarians as well as animal care and veterinary technicians, many of whom are certified in animal care and veterinary practices, behavioral and colony management specialists, and others provide care for the NPRC animals.

What do the monkeys eat?

The animals eat a nutritionally balanced diet of monkey chow as well as fresh fruits and vegetables.

Where are the NPRCs located?

The seven NPRC are located around the country: California, Georgia, Louisiana, Oregon, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

Do the seven NPRCs offer tours?

All seven NPRCs engage in community and educational outreach, which may include facility tours. Please contact the individual centers for more information.

How many people do the NPRCs employ?

The NPRCs employ more than 2,500 people. This includes: researchers; animal care, behavioral management, colony management and veterinary personnel; as well as community outreach, facilities management, finance and human resources employees.

Who funds the NPRCs?

The primary source of NPRC research and infrastructure funding is via grants from the NIH. The NPRCs also receive funding through competitive research grants from other federal agencies, nonprofit organizations and private philanthropy. Additionally, biotech and pharmaceutical companies provide a small portion of research funding.

Animal rights groups say the monkeys are abused and mistreated. How do you respond?

Providing the best, compassionate care for NPRC animals is a top priority and helps ensure research results are scientifically valid. NPRC staff monitors animals daily in order to quickly address any concerns, and all animals receive comprehensive annual checkups, much like humans. The NPRCs follow regulations and guidelines established by the NIH, the USDA via the Animal Welfare Act and institutional animal care and use committees. In addition, all NPRCs maintain AAALAC International accreditation, the gold standard in animal care.

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