Harvard to close Southborough primate center

by susan on April 24, 2013

Harvard University announced yesterday it will close its primate research center located on Parmenter Road in Southborough. The decision comes after a troubled stretch for the facility, which reported the deaths of four monkeys between June 2010 and February 2012.

According to the Boston Globe, Harvard cited “a tough economic climate for biomedical research funding and shifting long-term strategic plans” for its decision. The facility is expected to be largely shut down by 2015.

Writes the Globe:

The US Department of Agriculture investigated the center and cited Harvard for violations of animal welfare rules, an embarrassing black eye that caused consternation across the university. But medical school leaders said the decision to close the primate center was unrelated to its previous problems.

“It’s very, very disturbing, disappointing, disheartening, shocking,” said Nancy Haigwood, director of the Oregon National Primate Research Center, who was informed of the decision by the Harvard center’s director. “I think it’s going to be very, very difficult to imagine that the investigators impacted by this decision will be able to keep up their momentum. We’re talking about very talented senior investigators who are at the peak of their careers.”

Haigwood said the decision would, at the least, slow down the pace of research into diseases that affect human health and might lead scientists to leave the Boston area to pursue their projects. The primate center is known for its research on infectious diseases, such as AIDS, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.

What do you think? Is this good news for Southborough or bad news? Or is it too soon to tell? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

1 Steve Phillips April 25, 2013 at 5:21 PM

Congratulations to Harvard University for finally doing the right thing and closing this disgraceful facility.

2 Just Curious April 27, 2013 at 1:56 AM

Steve – try telling that to someone whose is suffering from AIDS or Parkinson’s disease.

3 Steve Phillips April 27, 2013 at 10:39 AM

Here’s a statement from Kathleen Conlee, vice president of animal research issues at The Humane Society of the United States (4/23/13):

“Harvard’s decision to close the New England Primate Research Center is a significant, positive development. As an organization, we advocate for better investment of research dollars. Moving away from the use of these highly intelligent animals is another step in that right direction. Our government should prioritize alternatives that will provide better, faster and more relevant results for human health, such as the organ-on-a-chip technology being developed at Harvard’s own Wyss Institute.”

I understand that others may disagree, but I feel that the potential benefits to human health do not give us the right to inflict pain and suffering on these intelligent animals, especially when alternatives are available. Regardless of how much we could learn, we would never allow human beings to be the subjects of these experiments, even with their informed consent, and it’s just as wrong to use primates, who are incapable of providing consent. Additionally, several well-publicized incidents of animal neglect and mistreatment have recently brought this facility into the spotlight.

Harvard cited funding issues as part of the reason for their decision. This is because the scientific community in both the US and Europe is moving away from primate research in favor of more humane approaches.

I applaud Harvard’s decision to close this facility.

4 Carrie April 27, 2013 at 11:22 AM

providing water and not having the cages slam down on a living creature is basic, straightforward and does not require a degree from an Ivy League College. The fact that such a facility with the name of Harvard could not follow such protocol is mind boggling and enraging.

5 Richard April 28, 2013 at 8:35 PM

Will the land be opened up for development in Southborough? Maybe that’s a good alternative location for the 40B housing development currently proposed for the land behind the Red Roof Inn at the Rt. 9 and I-495 junction.

6 Dick Chase April 28, 2013 at 9:35 PM

The property is also home to the Harvard depository. I doubt they’re thinking of selling the property.

7 John Kendall April 29, 2013 at 8:13 AM

There has been a lot of new construction on that site over the past 10 years. With all of that as well as the book depository, I see new use by Harvard. I don’t think anything will be put on the market.

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