John Hopkins Reaches $25K Settlement with USDA

Stop Animal Exploitation Now issued a press release in August claiming that, back in February, John Hopkins University reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to settle a number of complaints over alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Most of the alleged violations occurred between 1998 and 2003.

In the settlement agreement, a copy of which was also obtained by the Chronicle of Higher Education, John Hopkins did not admit any wrongdoing.

According to the Chronicle, John Hopkins was by far the top recipient of research grants from the National Institutes of Health, receiving $599 million in 2004 for 1,300 projects.

The various complaints filed by USDA inspectors included failure to provide anesthesia or veterinary care, to inappropriate housing for 37 primates at the university’s Krieger Mind/Brain Institute.

In the SAEN press release, Michael Budkie said,

In April of 2004 we labeled Johns Hopkins one of the worst labs in the nation for violating the Animal Welfare Act at least 31 times in three years. Apparently the USDA agrees with our investigation, which uncovered a wide array of illegal activity at Johns Hopkins.

Presumably if the USDA really felt that way, it wouldn’t have settled for a relatively small $25,000 settlement fine.

For its part, John Hopkins University spokeswoman Joanna Downer told The Chronicle,

[John Hopkins University] has been making great improvements in the processes in place to oversee animal research and to maintain and improve the quality of our research and care program. If our animals aren’t doing well, it doesn’t contribute to excellent research.


John Hopkins U. Agrees to $25,000 Settlement Over Animal-Care Allegations. Jeffrey Brainard, The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 10, 2005.

Johns Hopkins University labs slapped with hefty $25,000 USDA fine after watchdog group files complaint. Press Release, Stop Animal Exploitation Now, August 9, 2005.

Researchers Confirm Theories of Indirect CWD Transmission

Research funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health confirms long-held theories that chronic wasting disease can be spread to deer through exposure to the carcasses or excrement of infected animals.

Chronic wasting disease is a mad cow-like disease that afflicts elk, white-tailed deer and mule deer. Like mad cow disease, chronic wasting disease is believed to produce abnormal proteins that gradually destroy brain tissues. The disease is always fatal and there is no known treatment to prevent the disease.

University of Wyoming researcher — and coauthor of the NSF/NIH study — Elizabeth Williams said of the findings,

We’ve had a great deal of circumstantial evidence suggesting that indirect transmission occurs. The experimental findings show that we need to consider several exposure routes when attempting to control this disease.

So far there is no evidence that chronic wasting disease is a threat to human health, but federal and state officials recommend against eating the meat of animals known to be infected with the disease.


New research supports theory that indirect transmission of chronic wasting disease. Press Release, National Science Foundation, May 12, 2004.

Animal Research Points to Possible Treatment for Severe Chronic Pain

Research published recently in the Journal of Clinical Investigation suggests that severe chronic pain might be treated by selectively deleting specific nerve cells that convey the pain through the nervous system.

A research team led by the National Institutes of Health in April reported that a series of experiments in rats demonstrated that a drug called resiniferatoxin could be injected in the ganglia of rats and selectively kill some cells while allowing the rats to maintain normal motor and sensory function. The researchers then followed up by using the technique to treat dogs suffering from chronic pain.

The researchers used eight dogs who had been brought to veterinary hospitals with severe pain from arthritis and cancer. The dogs were injected with resiniferatoxin to kill the neurons responsible for the sensation of chronic pain felt by the dogs. According to a press release from NIH on the study,

So effective was the treatment in eight dogs severely affected by osteroarthritis, cancer-related pain, or both, all eventually became more active and later walked with slight or no limps. Just as importantly, none showed any adverse side effects from their treatments, their temperaments were improved, and their need for other pain-controlling medications was eliminated or greatly reduced.

In addition, the pain relief the dogs experienced did not diminish as their disease progressed. Dr. Michael Iadarola said in a prepared statement,

We were very encouraged to see a long-term therapeutic benefit that did not diminish with the progression of the disease. When a cancer progresses, you often have to increase the dose of conventional pain medications, such as opiate analgesics, which can produce alterations of consciousness, activity level, and other severe side effects that can impair overall quality of life.


Animal studies show promise treating severe chronic pain. Press Release, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, May 3, 2004.

HSUS Wants End to Research Involving Chimpanzees By 2005

The Humane Society of the United States’ Kathleen Conlee wrote an account of a session at the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science conference about chimpanzee research in which she articulates the HSUS’s desire for a ban on chimpanzee research in the United States by 2005.

Conlee writes that the presentation by a National Institute of Health official noted the importance of chimpanzee research in the past and the likely importance of research utilizing the animals in the future. According to Conlee,

When the session came to an end, I had one particularly burning question to ask the speaker: “What is NIH doing, if anything, to address the fact that various countries have decided to ban the use of chimpanzees in research?”

I wasn’t expecting the response that I got—at least not in public. The official said he could foresee a time in the future—he couldn’t say when—when chimpanzees are no longer used in research in the United States. He then pointed out that public opinion has had an influence on this issue.

Like the morning fog that eventually lifts from Puget Sound, that sinking feeling from earlier in the day was gone. I felt there was hope that chimpanzee research in the U.S. will end—that the 1,300 chimpanzees currently used, held, bred or purchased for use in federally supported or conducted research might one day soon have a better life. I also felt that The HSUS must peek its head inside the door that was cracked opened that day in Seattle.

Conlee continues that HSUS is now firmly behind that effort because it views chimpanzee research as inherently inhumane,

Documentaries and accounts of chimpanzee families in the wild have shown us their complex natures: We’ve seen their various emotions, such as anger, joy and jealousy; their use of tools; and how they can be deceptive to obtain something they want. I worked with chimpanzees at a sanctuary and observed such behaviors firsthand.

Now consider those same complex chimpanzees living alone in a small laboratory cage (5x5x7 feet) with little to do, nothing to look forward to, and occasionally suffering from the research they have been subjected to. The bright eyes of the wild chimpanzee are nowhere to be found.

The lucky ones have social partners and live in larger enclosures, but they still live behind bars and are used as subjects for research. We have to ask ourselves, “Is the price of chimpanzee research too high?” The Humane Society of the United States argues that it is. That is why we are urging the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the parent agency of NIH, to create a plan to end chimpanzee research by 2005. We sent a letter to HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson (as well as two NIH officials) to that effect in November.

The NIH responded to HSUS’ letter by saying it had no plans to change its approach to non-human primate research.

Conlee argues that the elimination of research involving chimpanzees would have only limited affects on the progress of biomedical research because most such research is unnecessary and alternatives could likely be created for the rest,

Some argue that chimpanzees must be used in biomedical research in an attempt to cure human diseases. However, many of the research areas for which chimpanzees are used also involve the use of other experimental approaches and models. Therefore, phasing out chimpanzee experiments would have limited impact on the pace of biomedical progress.

The HSUS also argues that alternatives to chimpanzee use haven’t been adequately explored. Why isn’t funding dedicated to finding these alternatives? Scientific results from any type of research conducted on apes are compromised as a result of the animals’ captivity-related suffering. Development of alternatives should be a priority; the chimpanzees, however, cannot wait for this—they must be retired from research as soon as possible, and we believe 2005 is a realistic time period.


Conference Call: Remark Leads HSUS to Publicly Call for Ban on Chimp Research. Kathleen Conlee, Humane Society of the United States, January 2004.

The HSUS Calls on Federal Government to End Use of Chimpanzees in Biomedical Research. Press Release, Humane Society of the United States, December 11, 2003.

NIH Renews Grant for Primate Cloning Project

In August the National Institutes of Health announced a five-year, $6.4 million grant to the Pittsburgh Development Center to continue its research into cloning monkeys and other primates.

In 1998 the NIH awarded funding to PDC developer Gerald Schatten to pursue issues surrounding the cloning of non-human primates. Schatten is a professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine.

According to Schatten, the ability to clone monkeys and other non-human primates would allow for the creation of new and more accurate models of human disease while also reducing the number of animals needed for such research. Actually cloning primates, however, has proven difficult.

Most animal cloning has involved variations on that used to clone Dolly the sheep — the nucleus of a fertilized cell is remove and replaced with one from an adult cell. That works relatively well in sheep, mice, rats and other species, but in primates the removal of the nucleus also has the unfortunate side effect of removing the mechanism responsible for separating chromosomes during cell division. The upshot is that when the cell divides, the resulting cells have the incorrect number of chromosomes.

Schatten told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that in efforts using this method of cloning on 700 fertilized eggs from rhesus macaques that they were not able to produce a single pregnancy.

Schatten and his colleagues will use this latest NIH grant to explore alternative methods, such as inserting the adult nucleus before removing the fertilized egg’s own nucleus.


Pitt gets $6.4 million to clone monkeys. Anitra Srikameswaran, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 30, 2003.

NIH renews $6M grant to study monkey cloning. Pittsburgh Business Times, August 29, 2003.

NIH to Fund Zebrafish Laboratory

According to The Scientist, the National Institute of Health will break ground in October on a 5,000 square foot zebrafish lab that will eventually house more than a half million zebrafish. The lab is scheduled to open sometime in 2005.

The zebrafish is growing in importance in a variety of medical research projects as it can be used as a substitute or supplement to mice in an increasing number of animal models, and in addition has a number of advantages that mice lack. Zebrafish are ideal, for example, for research into embryo development because the 200 or so eggs zebrafish lay are relatively large and develop outside the female’s body. Zebrafish are also easier to care for and less expensive to raise than mice.

Work is currently in progress to sequence the zebrafish genome and is expected to be completed by the end of 2005. There are also efforts underway to create gene knockout zebrafish in much the same way that gene knockout mice have been produced to study the effects of specific genes.

So far, animal models using zebrafish have been developed to study everything from deafness to leukemia, and that number will greatly increase in the coming years.


NIH to build zebrafish lab. Ted Agres, The Scientist, August 19, 2003.