California National Primate Research Center
The California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC) is a federally funded biomedical research facility, dedicated to improving human and animal health, and located on the University of California, Davis, campus. The CNPRC is part of a network of seven national primate research centers developed to breed, house, care for and study primates for medical and behavioral research. Opened in 1962, researchers at this secure facility have investigated many diseases, ranging from asthma and Alzheimer's disease to AIDS and other infectious diseases, and has also produced discoveries about autism. CNPRC currently houses about 4,700 monkeys, the majority of which are rhesus macaques, with a small population of South American titi monkeys. The Center, located on 300 acres (1.2 km²) 2.5 miles west of the UC Davis campus, is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Scientists using the Center's facilities produce numerous papers annually detailing their investigations into human health issues. The center's research units are focused on four primary topics: Brain, mind, and behavior; infectious diseases; reproductive sciences and regenerative medicine; and respiratory diseases.
Through their Affiliate and Pilot Research program, CNPRC supports visiting scientists by providing access to facilities and equipment. Similarly, the Center aids off-site researchers with veterinary services from in-house professionals.
As with most federally funded research institutions, CNPRC provides educational outreach programs to the local community. They invite local elementary school students to learn about the research and animals through a standardized two-hour program. Children and their teachers learn some basics of primate biology, and about some of the primate-based biomedical research that is performed at the Center. Furthermore, the Center provides resources to elementary science teachers to promote biology, particularly primate biology and behavior, instruction.
Incidents and controversies
The California NPRC has been criticized for a number of issues related to its care of monkeys including several violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) that have resulted in the deaths of over a dozen animals in recent years.
In 2013 a monkey was crushed by his cage door and in 2011 another monkey accidentally strangled himself with a bungee cord left in his cage. The center was cited by the USDA for AWA violations for failing to provide veterinary care to 19 monkeys who subsequently died between 2010-2009. In 2004 the center was fined by the USDA after seven monkeys died after the building overheated. Federal inspectors have also noted that as many as 50 monkeys were at times able to escape their enclosures. Critics of the center — who have called for the laboratory to be closed— say that the animals are treated poorly, subjected to cruel experiments and that more than 2,000 monkeys are kept in small indoor cages for their entire lives. The University has defended their care of the animals and the use of monkeys in medical experimentation. According to the center’s director, “To abandon primate research now would be the biggest hindrance to…medicine" claiming that the animals are needed for the development of new treatments for illnesses, a claim critics of the center dispute.
In 2009 an outbreak of a monkey-killing cold virus identified as an adenovirus infected both monkeys and humans, with the sickness killing about a third of the 65 titi monkeys there. Only four of the 23 sick monkeys survived the illness.
There is a growing evidence of the contribution of CNPRC to the origins of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV). Evidence from the full length sequences has shown formation of a distinct cluster of SIVmac (the SIV strain that infect the old world monkeys in Asia) within HIV-2 and SIVmac phylogeny. It has been suggested that these monkeys could have been infected at CNPRC by captive Sooty Mangabey.
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