Chimps used by the New York Blood Center for Hep B Vaccine development left to die on island


This documentary was made in 2014 about the very island in question before the lab pulled funding for care

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May 2015
Monrovia - Liberia Chimpanzees used by a U.S. Research Institute the New York Blood Center for developing and testing of Hepatitis B and C vaccines that generated over US$500 million have been abandoned to die from starvation.

“The research carried out by the New York Blood Center using the Chimpanzees is reported to have contributed to the receipt by NYBC of more than US$500 million in royalties. But these animals are left to die from starvation in retirement”, said Dr. Fatorma Borlay, head of the Liberia Bio-medical Research Institute.

The Chimps were used in research for the development of the Hepatitis B vaccine and also contributed to the validation of a sterilization method that eliminates transmission of Hepatitis B and C and HIV viruses through blood products. The Chimps are left with the underfunded Liberia Bio-medical Research Institute to take care of, a burden the institution is finding it difficult to handle.

Dr. Borlay said the agreement between U.S Institution and the Government of Liberia provided that NYBC will provide care for the chimps in “retirement.” “Care has to be provided for these animals in retirement on the islands where they are safe from human predators and local people and animals which have lost their fear of people can be vicious”, he said.

Dr. Borlay added that NYBC initially began implementing the agreement, adding that it has stopped its support to the chimps. “Because they were raised in captivity, the chimpanzees have to be fed by handlers whom they have come to know and trust and provided with other care at a cost of about $ 30,000 per month,” Dr. Borlay added.

According to an American NGO Release and Restitute for Chimpanzees it reports that early chimpanzee experiments ran the gamut—from infecting them with virtually every infectious agent known, to using them in head crash and trauma studies, or as unwilling donors for organ transplants.

Chimpanzees were irradiated to see the effects on their bodies. They were injected with brain tissue from patients with schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis, or with pulverized brain tissue from humans who died from kuru. Infant chimpanzees were separated from their mothers and put in isolation chambers to observe their responses.

It is wrong

A visiting Primate expert, Dr. Agnes Souchal is in Liberia to evaluate the current health and practices of care to the Chimpanzees. Dr.Souchal said that it is “wrong” to abandon the chimpanzees after been used for research purposes. “It is wrong to do that, the chimpanzees have been used for the hepatitis B research and they helped for the developing and testing of vaccines and now they deserve to be retired, and not to be killed,” Dr. Souchal said.

Dr. Souchal continued: “The chimpanzees have been abandoned, the New York Blood Center stopped the funding, the human society of the united states and international have been trying to reach out to NYBC and their boards several times and they never get any answers they failed to respond.” The visiting Primates expert said, the New York Blood Center decision to stop funding in the midst of the Ebola outbreak is a challenge for a research institute.

“The York blood center told the employees that they were going to keep their promise and always help to take care of the chimpanzees but this didn’t happen and they send this letter to Mr. Borlay in the midst of a major crisis in Liberia it was the Ebola outbreak,” Dr.Souchal said. Dr. Souchal said the Chimps are being fed through donations by individuals adding that it is not enough for the animals' upkeep.

“Numbers of individuals are giving their funding to ensure that these animals do not starve,” she added. She continued “I was able to buy more food for the chimps, but still they will need to be fed everyday, but we haven’t found any funding for that yet.” Dr. Souchal said: “I’m here to assess the situation, thanks to the employees that the chimpanzees did not die; they (chimps) still do not have enough food because the employees do not have the funding.”

She said, NYBC left the employees without salary adding that she is working out modalities for the employee’s salary. “The other point is that the employees have been left without salaries they are working as volunteers right now, it is not a normal practice for animals to be abandoned after the research,” Dr. Souchal added.

In 2006, the New York Blood Center (NYBC) announced the decision to end their use of chimpanzees in research and close the Vilab II chimpanzee research facility in Liberia. According to the Hepatitis Research Foundation (HRF), associated with NYBC, Vilab’s remaining 74 chimpanzees would be re-socialized into groups and released into the Liberia Chimpanzee Sanctuary, also known as the Vilab II Island Sanctuary Project, pending the completion of existing protocols.

For example, in 2007, HRF completed a chimpanzee vaccine trial involving hepatitis B and C viruses, with human clinical trials scheduled to begin in 2008 when “chimpanzee research [would] no longer [be] needed. The NYBC is said to have purchased more than six islands off the coast of Liberia as a sanctuary for the chimpanzees. Few limits, if any at all, were placed on what was done to them by scientists.

In recent years, the general public and scientists have expressed increasing discomfort over the use of chimpanzees in biomedical research. Today it would be considered morally unacceptable to carry out many of the experiments that were done on them in the recent past (although many similar experiments continue on other nonhuman species).

Some particularly egregious experiments on chimpanzees unfortunately still persist. The Liberia Institute for Biomedical Research was established by an act of the Liberian Legislature in 1975 as a Liberian Government entity (then called the “National Research Institute”) to be governed by a board of governors chaired by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

It was initially called the Liberian Institute for Tropical Medicine funded by the American Foundation for Tropical Medicines in 1954. In 1976, the NYBC entered into a formal agreement with the LIBR for collaboration on research and training. That agreement ended in 1978 but the NYBC continued it work in Liberia, in 1981 they signed another agreement.