The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) should dismantle a decades-old colony of 360 chimpanzees, retiring all but 50 or so of the animals to a national sanctuary, the agency was told on 22 January in a long-awaited report.
The report, from a working group of external agency advisers, also counsels the NIH to end half of 22 biomedical and behavioural experiments, saying that they do not meet criteria established in a December 2011 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report.
“Clearly there is going to be a reduction in the use of chimpanzees in research,” says working group co-chair Kent Lloyd, associate dean for research at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California Davis.
The report says that the NIH should begin planning the transfer of animals due for retirement to sanctuary housing “immediately”, and that a colony of about 50 animals is sufficient for future research. The report also sets high hurdles for chimp experiments, calling for the establishment of an independent committee that would vet individual study proposals after they have passed routine NIH scientific review. For cases in which the burden on the animals is high, the benefit to humans would have to be “very high” to pass muster with the committee, says Daniel Geschwind, the other co-chair of the working group and a geneticist at the University of California, Los Angeles.