PETA wants UCSF to refund federal grant due to poor treatment of lab monkey

Courtesy PhotoResearch: A federal report indicated Petra

Courtesy PhotoResearch: A federal report indicated Petra

Animal-rights activists are targeting UC San Francisco over testing of a lab monkey who was kept in a medical study for more than 23 months after developing complications due to a surgical procedure — in violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

From 2008 to 2010, a female rhesus macaque named Petra was the subject of neurological studies aimed at learning more about Parkinson’s disease. But according to a federal inspection report, the primate suffered for months after hardware removal surgery failed to extract a small piece of drug-injection apparatus from inside her head.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals now wants UCSF to return $2.1 million in federal grant funding from the National Institutes of Health, in accordance with the agency’s own policies.

“NIH has an opportunity to make a clear statement that grant recipients cannot engage in noncompliant activity and expect to keep federal tax dollars,” PETA’s letter states.

The agency has yet to respond to PETA’s request.

This is not the first time that PETA, which opposes scientific animal testing of all kinds,  has targeted UCSF. In 2007, PETA sued the school over about 75 U.S. Department of Agriculture citations it received between 2001 and 2003. The school characterized the sanctions as minor, and ultimately the suit was dismissed by a San Francisco judge who said federal regulators — not judges — are in charge of monitoring animal experimentation.

In the case of Petra, UCSF documents indicate that the situation required intensive monitoring as the monkey removed her own fur and continually irritated the surgical incision by picking at it — at times causing bacterial infections and leaving dried blood in her cage.

After a federal inspector photographed the monkey during a routine check in October 2010, the  USDA issued an order to the lab Jan. 5 telling it to rectify such animal practices within three months. But by that time, Petra already had been euthanized.

UCSF spokeswoman Jennifer O’Brien declined to say whether UCSF would willingly return the public grant money.
She said the university “takes very seriously its responsibility for the humane treatment of the
animals it studies.”

She added that researchers were concerned about the monkey’s problems and kept the condition “largely under control without ever fully resolving it.”

O’Brien said experiments on the monkey yielded progress in the field by leading to the development of a human gene therapy clinical trial for Parkinson’s disease. She said Petra had always been slated for euthanasia following the tests.

dschreiber@sfexaminer.com

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