Texas Biomed Inaugurates Animal Care Complex
The Texas Biomedical Research Institute this week opened a new facility that will allow them to breed more non-human primates for medical research amid a national animal shortage.
The four-building complex — including an 18,000-foot animal care building — will be part of the Southwest National Primate Research Center.
“This is a huge project for Texas biomed,” said SNPRC director Deepak Kaushal.
Kaushal said the current facility, which houses around 2,500 non-human primates, needs upgrading and the extra space will allow them to house even more animals.
“This building, when built, will be a modern building that will allow us to house between 800 and 1,000 additional non-human primates,” Kaushal said.
The breeding program is important, Kaushal pointed out, because there is a severe shortage of nonhuman primates for research in the United States, including baboons, marmosets and, specifically, rhesus monkeys, which are ideal to study infectious diseases like HIV and COVID. -19.
The federal government is also concerned about the shortage, according to the scientific journal ‘Nature’, and the National Institutes of Health invested millions of dollars this summer in breeding programs, with plans to invest tens of millions of dollars. more. More than $4 million of that went to Texas Biomed to boost its population of rhesus monkeys, which Kaushal says have been critical in the country’s fight against COVID-19.
“Some of these monkeys were vaccinated with multiple Pfizer mRNA vaccines, and we found that these Pfizer vaccines were very effective,” Kaushal said. “Then finally, one of them ended up in our arms. Millions of people received it.
The Texas Biomed animals were also used to study Regeneron, the monoclonal antibody therapy given to former President Trump when he had COVID-19.
But animal research is controversial and animal rights activists say it is unnecessary and cruel.
Heath Nevill is the laboratory manager for the Behavioral Services Unit at the Southwest National Primate Research Center. He looks after the psychological health and welfare of the SNPRC primates. While leading a short bus tour through the primate center, he pointed out the balls and other toys that clutter the baboons’ enclosures, saying that the baboons like to chew and the toys are there for that purpose.
“Balls and cones and everything you see would be considered physical enrichment. There is (also) nutritional enrichment, professional enrichment, sensory enrichment and social enrichment.
Later in the tour, Nevill pointed out what he called the chimpanzee playground.
“It may not seem obvious, but everything up to the roof of this compound was designed for a purpose,” he said.
Nevill is excited about the new animal care facility.
“For animals, it will be an excellent state-of-the-art facility, and for biomedical research as a whole, it will provide more quality research subjects for biomedical research.”
Because it’s not a zoo. It is ultimately a research facility, where animals are intentionally infected with diseases that scientists want to study and where drugs and vaccines are tested on them. It is a research center where many of them die of these diseases.
SNPRC director Deepak Kaushal understands that some people vehemently object to their facility even existing, but he says they take care of the animals there.
“We work very ethically. We are regulated very ethically and very strictly by regulatory bodies that will not allow us to harm our animals,” Kaushal said, adding, “Every step we take in our daily lives has benefited from animal research. In neonatal medicine, in infectious diseases, in cardiovascular (care), the direct work that has been done here on non-human primates has absolutely saved lives.”
Kaushal added that this new animal care complex – which will be completed in early 2023 – will not only benefit researchers and those with illnesses and in need of treatment, it will also benefit the animals living there.
Dr. Akudo Anyanwu, vice president of development at Texas Biomed, agreed that the expansion of the animal care complex and other planned improvements at Texas Biomed will benefit everyone.
“Everything we build is for the health of the community here in San Antonio, (in) Texas, nationally and globally,” Anyanwu said. “Why? Because we work on infectious diseases and as we all know it’s an issue that affects all levels of society.”