Animals

Texas Biomed breaks ground on animal care complex

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The Texas Institute for Biomedical Research this week began building a new facility that will allow them to breed more non-human primates for medical research amid a nationwide animal shortage.

The complex of four buildings – including the 18,000-foot-tall 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 existing facilities, which house about 2,500 non-human primates, need an upgrade, and the extra space will allow them to raise more animals.

“This building, when constructed, will be a modern building that will allow us to house between 800 to 1,000 non-human primates,” Kaushal said.

The breeding program is important, Kaushal noted, because there is a serious shortage of non-human primates for research in the United States, including baboons, primates and rhesus monkeys, which are ideal for studying infectious diseases such as HIV and COVID. -19.

The federal government is also concerned about the shortage, according to the science journal Nature, and the National Institutes of Health invested millions of dollars this summer in breeding programs, with plans to invest tens of millions more. More than $4 million of that amount went to Texas Biomed to boost the population of rhesus monkeys, which Kaushal said has been critical to the nation’s fight against COVID-19.

“Some of those monkeys were vaccinated with multiple Pfizer mRNA vaccines, and we found these Pfizer vaccines to be very effective,” Kaushal said, then finally one of them actually ended up in our arms. Millions of people have received it.”

The animals at Texas Biomed were also used to study Regeneron, the monoclonal antibody treatment given to former President Trump when he had COVID-19.

The Texas Institute for Biomedical Research this week began building a new facility that will allow them to breed more non-human primates for medical research amid a nationwide animal shortage.

Bonnie Petri

The Texas Institute for Biomedical Research this week began building a new facility that will allow them to breed more non-human primates for medical research amid a nationwide animal shortage.

But animal research is controversial, and animal rights activists say it is unnecessary and cruel.

Heath Neville is the laboratory director of the Behavioral Services Unit at the Southwest National Primate Research Center. He looks after the mental health and well-being of the primates at SNPRC. Driving a minibus ride through the primate center, he pointed to the balls and other toys that jammed baboons’ enclosures, saying that baboons love to chew and toys are there for this.

“Balls and cones and things that you see will be considered physical enrichment. There is (also) nutritional enrichment, occupational enrichment, sensory enrichment, and social enrichment.”

Later in the tour, Neville referred to what he called a chimpanzee playground.

“It might not seem so readily apparent,” he said, “but everything even the roof of this enclosure was built for a purpose.”

Neville is excited about the new animal welfare facility.

“For animals, it will be a fantastic, state-of-the-art facility, and for biomedical research as a whole, it will provide more high-quality research topics for biomedical research.”

Because this is not a zoo. This is, after all, a research facility, where animals are deliberately sickened with diseases that scientists want to study, and drugs and vaccines are tested on. It’s a research facility where a lot of them die from those diseases.

SNPRC Director Deepak Kaushal understands that some people are vehemently opposed to having their facilities, but says they take excellent care of the animals there.

“We operate very ethically. We are ethically regulated and very strong by regulatory boards that will not allow us to harm our animals,” Kaushal said, adding, “Every step we take in our normal lives has benefited from animal research. In neonatology, in infectious diseases, in (care) of the cardiovascular system, the direct work done here on non-human primates has completely saved lives.”

Kaushal added that the new animal welfare complex – which will be completed in early 2023 – will not only benefit researchers and those with diseases in need of treatment, but the animals that live there as well.

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 would benefit everyone.

“Everything we build is for the health of the community here in San Antonio (in) Texas, both nationally and globally,” Anyanwu said. “Why? Because we work on infectious diseases and as we all know this is a problem that affects all levels of society.”

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