In recent years, biomedical research carried out in Europe has seen fewer and fewer experiments performed on monkeys. This trend may result in this type of research being conducted more often outside Europe in the future – for instance, in China. Today, a prominent academic journal entitled The Scientist published an article about experiments involving monkeys being transferred to countries outside Europe.
The article quotes experts who are concerned about this trend, which is mainly caused by rising costs, complaints from society and increased political pressure.
The author of the article pointed out that some countries, such as Belgium and the Netherlands, have even taken political measures to ensure that the number of studies involving monkeys is reduced. For instance, Dutch politicians have decided that the number of studies involving monkeys must be reduced by 40 percent. Jan Langermans (BPRC's deputy director) stated in the article that BPRC is currently trying to determine which of its active fields of research (infectious and chronic diseases) will be prioritised. ‘And how to continue, at the same time, to provide the academic community with the information it needs.’
Lab for the primate research community
Langermans was referring to the fact that BPRC not only conducts its own research, but, by making its expertise and cells and tissues available to others, also contributes to research conducted by other organisations, ranging from hospitals and universities to nature reserves and zoos.
‘Since we are a centre of expertise with regard to viral diagnostics, we often receive requests for help from zoos and other organisations from all over the world’, Langermans explains. ‘In addition to scientific research on chronic and infectious diseases and geriatric disorders, we also conduct a great deal of research on how to improve primate health. For instance, centres from all over the world send us blood samples to determine whether their primates have been infected with viruses, and if so, what virus. These samples are just like the blood samples humans have taken and analysed by a lab. We just happen to serve as that lab for the primate research community.’