GALVESTON, Texas – After a nearly two-year inquiry into animal welfare and research programs, the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare has ruled that the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston is in full compliance with regulations governing the use of animals in research.
The OLAW ruling brought to an end a series of events that started with a 2015 audit by the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases that questioned why animals were not properly monitored and thus died instead of being humanely euthanized. The audit also stated that documentation and monitoring of vital signs were insufficient. OLAW, which is responsible for research animal care and use, investigated the NIAID audit findings; both OLAW and NIAID are a part of the National Institutes of Health.
OLAW agreed that UTMB hiring of additional highly-qualified veterinarians, increased training for all employees engaged in animal research, and other notable initiatives have made the institution’s animal program even stronger.
“Since my arrival at UTMB in 2015, we’ve worked hard to enhance the monitoring and documentation of all animals involved in scientific research,” said Doug Brining, director of UTMB’s Animal Resource Center.
“The employees hired for technical positions—including two veterinarians with extensive experience in high biocontainment areas, such as the Galveston National Laboratory—have benefitted UTMB’s animal program tremendously,” Brining said. “I’m happy to see that OLAW recognizes that these employment additions, our efforts to increase training of staff, and other programmatic enhancements have had a positive impact on the overall program.”
Despite the negative media stories about animal research conducted on its campus, as well as allegations made by Stop Animal Exploitation Now, an Ohio-based animal rights activists group led by Michael Budkie, UTMB will continue its mission to seek increased knowledge about deadly pathogens, viruses and diseases.
In just this decade, UTMB scientists led the worldwide efforts to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, developed a vaccine for Chikungunya and created a quick test for the Zika virus and are working on growing lungs in a laboratory to help children whose lungs are not fully developed or diseased.
Drugs that save and improve lives are tested in animals first to make sure that they are safe to administer to people. Animal research has led to the development of treatments for high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, organ transplants, artificial heart valves and medications to treat a variety of diseases. Animal research was also instrumental in helping to create safe vaccines for polio, measles, influenza, tetanus, smallpox and many other illnesses.