Monthly Archives: December 2009

A Review of 2009

2009 has been a big year for Speaking of Research as we went global with debates in Dublin, presentations in Ystad (Sweden), and rallies in the Los Angeles. In the US, Speaking of Research also had the opportunity to get the advocacy message outo to hundreds of scientists and researchers at 2009 annual meetings of both the Society for the Study of Reproduction in Pittsburgh and the Society for Neuroscience in Chicago. We also expanded our repertoire of social media (e.g. YouTube and FaceBook) to include Twitter – ensuring our message can be spread as widely as possible. This has clearly been effective as our website traffic has been increasing by approximately 50% every 6 months.

Just as we haven’t stopped, nor has the world of biomedical research. There have been advances in genetically modified monkeys, progress in combatting Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), the use of gene therapies for cerebral X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy and Leber’s congenital amaurosis and research into repairing heart damage. Read all about these and more in our Science News section.

A Novartis executive has his house burned down by the Animal Liberation Front in August 2009

Sadly, the animal rights activists and extremists have also not slept this year. The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) have struck across the US with a home visit (with paint stripper) to the UCI chair of pathology, arson attacks against a UCLA Professor’s car, vandalism to lab suppliers in Nevada, and threats made across the web to researchers across the country. Given many university’s preference to play down or bury stories of animal rights extremism against them it is hard to get a clear indication of the total level of attacks made by the “anti-vivisection” community. There has also been a rise in attacks across the rest of the world, particularly in the campaign against Novartis Chief Executive, Daniel Vasella, who’s holiday home was firebombed, and parents’ graves were desecrated. It is in response to such attacks that we developed a new page on the website specifically to deal with AR Extremism.

However there has been a shining ray of hope in the US. After the attack on Professor David Jentsch’s car in Los Angeles, a group of professors and researchers founded Pro-Test for Science (originally named UCLA Pro-Test). In April 2009, Pro-Test for Science (supported by Speaking of Research) organized a rally in support of life-saving medical research. This demonstration attracted almost 800 people, and provided a platform for researchers to explain the importance of their research to the Californian media. Many UCLA officials came out to speak out against extremism and in support of science. Read the full report of the rally.

The Pro-Test march snakes along Westwood

The rally also begun another campaign. Supported jointly by SR, Americans for Medical Progress and Pro-Test for Science, Tom Holder announced the creation of the Pro-Test Petition – a public petition to support the use of animals in medical research. So if you haven’t already, sign up now! This petition has already gained a following of close to 12,000 signatories – and the number continues to grow.

So here is the tip of the iceberg of the events of Speaking of Research in 2009. To win public support we cannot slack now, and I urge as many new people as possible to get involved in our growing committee.

Wishing you a Happy New Year

The Speaking of Research Committee

Merry Christmas

From all of us, we’d like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas

Regards

The Speaking of Research Committee

Breakthrough of the Year (almost!)

As the year draws to a close it’s time to reflect on an exciting year of animal research, and there seems no better place to start than with the top 10 breakthroughs of the year as selected by the prestigious scientific journal Science. Science is of course a general science magazine, and the choices reflect this with research in diverse fields ranging from astronomy to paleontology.

Last year our sister organization in the United Kingdom reported that Science had selected cell reprogramming to produce induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) as their breakthrough of the year.  Since then we have reported how the safety of iPS technology continues to improve while others have discussed exciting research which shows just how powerful the technique is by reprogramming fibroblast cells to generate healthy mice that can themselves produce offspring.

This year the top slot went to the discovery and study of Ardi, a 4.4 million year old ape who promises to shed a great deal of light on early human evolution, though it remains to be seem if she and her kind are a direct ancestor of modern humans.

We did have the consolation that one of the nine runner ups is an area of medicine to which animal research has made an enormous contribution , the return of gene therapy with Science claiming that  this year “… gene therapy turned a corner, as researchers reported success in treating several devastating diseases”. These diseases include X-Linked adrenoleukodystrophy, a usually fatal disease of the brain and nervous system, Leber’s congenital amaurosis, an inherited eye disorder that leads to blindness, and severe combinedimmunodeficiency (SCID)due to a lack of an enzyme called adenosinedeaminase.

Only last month I wrote about the crucial role of research with mice in developing the gene therapy for X-Linked adrenoleukodystrophy, while both Anna Matynia and I have written about Leber’s congenital amaurosis.  However,  we have not yet had an opportunity to discuss the therapy developed for treating SCID  in patients whose immune system has collapsed because they lack an enzyme named adenosine deaminase (ADA) which is crucial for removing toxic metabolites from cells.

A clinical trial published in January by the New England Journal of Medicine (1) reported how an Italian team had successfully treated  children with SCID by harvesting bone marrow stem cells from the boys and treating these cells with a retroviral vector containing the ADA gene that produces adenosine deaminase, and then transplanting the modified cells back into them.  In 5 of the boys the therapy restored normal function and significant improvements in the function of the immune system were observed in the other 5.  This therapy has been a couple of decades in development and one of the key investigators involved in this effort, and indeed in the recent clinical trial,  has been Dr. Claudio Bordignon of the University of Milan. Dr. Bordignon developed techniques that enabled scientists to study the ability of retrovirus transformed bone marrow cells from patients with ADA-SCID  to restore immune function in  the NOD/SCID mice that lack a functioning immune system (2).  This enabled him and his team to develop retroviral vectors that could safely drive the production of adenosine deaminase in bone marrow stem cells that survived for long periods after transplantation and are suitable for use in ADA-SCID patients where they need to function for many years.

It’s great to see an area of medical research that we’ve been following closely over the past year receive this recognition from Science, and we hope that as with iPS cells in 2009 gene therapy continues to show what it can do in 2010.

Paul Browne

1)      Aiuti A. et al.”Gene therapy for immunodeficiency due to adenosine deaminase deficiency.” N Engl J Med. Volume 360(5), Pages 447-458 (2009) DOI:10.1056/NEJMoa0805817

2)      Ferrari G. et al “An in vivo model of somatic cell gene therapy for human severe combined immunodeficiency.” Science. Volume 251(4999), Pages 1363-1366 (1991) PubMed:1848369

Standing Together: Widespread Support for OSU and its Research

The controversy over Oklahoma State University’s President Burns Hargisrecent decision to cancel a major research project has attracted international attention.  What has emerged is not yet a reversal of a bad decision, but evidence of far-reaching support for the OSU scientists who courageously spoke out and, more generally, for the responsible use of animals in lifesaving biomedical research.  The outpouring of concern over Hargis’ errors in decision-making has sent a clear message that such actions will be met with broad public attention and censure by those who support scientific progress.  If Hargis and OSU’s administration believed that their interference with an approved and funded biodefense research program could be accomplished without notice, they were proved wrong. This episode will stand as an example of public condemnation of institutions and administrations that cede to animal activism, whether it is from the pressure of donors or from threats of violence either real or anticipated. Taking anything less than a strong stand against the fear that animal activists seek to inspire is to take the wrong path. It leads away from scientific progress and away from democratic process.

A fringe contingent of animal activists would like for this case to represent the power of what they call direct action, campaigns of violence, harassment, and fear against those engaged in animal research.  And it has already been cited <Warning: Animal Extremist Site> in their calls <Warning: Animal Extremist Site> for what can only be called terrorism.  This is not a surprising result. It should have been anticipated by Hargis and should be by others who would bow to animal activists. For the vast majority of those concerned, however, this episode illustrates something more important. It highlights the growing resolve, support, and consensus for vocal and visible support of animal research, support that extends beyond the academic and scientific community to the greater public who benefit from progress in increasing basic understanding of health and from medical advancements that are achieved through animal research.

It is not difficult to appreciate Hargis’ fear of animal activism.  Many of us, particularly– but not only– those of us engaged in primate research, have been the targets of actions that are designed to induce fear by those who are unable to achieve their goals through civil means. These experiences are intended to be disturbing. Without the support of our institutions and others, the actions of animal activists pose challenges that can be difficult to overcome. Ending fear campaigns is an essential goal. What is also essential is that individual scientists and institutions realize that silence ultimately does little to protect against animal activism and that no one has to stand alone against it.

Burns Hargis

Speaking out in support of animal research has occurred in many places and by many individuals. In the U.K., Pro-Test sets a remarkable example of the power of taking a strong and public stand on the importance of responsible use of animals in lifesaving research.  Building on Pro-Test’s success, Tom Holder founded Speaking of Research in the U.S. and energized the growing coalition of scientists, students, and others who speak out and stand publicly for scientific progress and animal research. In California, where scientists have endured the worst of animal activism, UCLA scientists Drs. J. David Jentsch, Dario Ringach, Lynn Fairbanks and others founded Pro-Test for Science and demonstrated the surge of public support for its scientists and animal research programs.  With Americans for Medical Progress, Speaking of Research and UCLA Pro-Test initiated the Pro-Test Petition in April. Over 11,000 signatories to date have affirmed the value of animal research and the importance of defending it.  These efforts join the many local and national programs that engage the public in dialogue about the role of nonhuman animals in ethical and humane behavioral and biomedical research. Together they show the strength of a community that can effectively challenge animal activism and demonstrate the importance of animal research to the public.

Speaking of Research provides a summary of the coverage of the OSU situation here and encourages you to share it with others who are interested in following this important discussion. The outcome has implications well beyond primate research, and will certainly help to shape the future of animal research in the US and around the world.

Allyson J. Bennett, Ph.D.

Speaking of Research

The views expressed on this blog post are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer, Wake Forest University Health Sciences.

 

Summary of news and opinion:

11/30/09:   In the Daily Oklahoman reporter Susan Simpson breaks news of OSU President Hargis’ decision to cancel a primate research project.  Anthrax study rejected by OSU:  Euthanasia of primates may be to blame for decision to cancel veterinary school project.
11/30/09:  KOCO 5 Oklahoma City. OSU Turns Down Anthrax Study: President Against Animal Testing
11/30/09:   Science bloggers quickly picked up the story. In her post, Ongoing witch-hunt against Oklahoma scientists, Part Deux, Science Blog’s ERV called it:  “Quite possibly one of the weirdest things I have ever witnessed in my scientific career– The president of Oklahoma State University has ‘forbidden’ an ethics panel approved, NIH funded research project on ‘his’ campus.”
11/30/09:    Science Blogs, Drug Monkey. OSU President Blocks NIH Funded Science to Appease Philanthropist.
12/01/09:  Animal activist Madeleine Pickens, wife of wealthy donor T. Boone Pickens, praised Hargis’ decision on her website. Re-posting a story from DVM Magazine, Pickens places her commendation in the article’s title, adding to it “Kudos for a Great Decision!”
12/01/09:  Tulsa World. Editorial.  Anthrax fiat: Science should guide research.
12/01/09:  The Scientist. Jef Akst. School halts baboon anthrax study.
12/02/09:  Speaking of Research.  Oklahoma University President Interferes with Federally Funded Health Research.
12/02/09:  Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) releases a statement in support of animal research.
12/02/09:  Primate Freedom. Rick Bogle. Panties Bunched Up by Baboons. <Warning: Animal Extremist Site>
12/02/09:  Science Insider. Greg Miller. Why Did Oklahoma State Cancel Anthrax Research Project?
12/03/09:  Science Blogs, Scicurious at Neurotopia. An Open Letter to OSU.
12/04/09:  Daily Oklahoman, op-ed by OSU President Hargis OSU’s best interests at center of decision.
12/04/09:  Drug Monkey. OSU President Responds to Critics, Fails to Explain Anything.
12/07/09:  Speaking of Research, Dr. Allyson J. Bennett. OSU President Yet to Explain Decision to Cancel Primate Project.
12/07/09:  Nature News.  Brendan Borrel. Primate study halted by US university: Officials fear violent reprisals from a reinvigorated animal-rights movement.
12/08/09:  Discover Magazine. University, Fearing Animal-Rights Violence, Axes Baboon Study.
12/08/09:  The New Scientist. Andy Coghlan. Anthrax study on baboons axed by university president.
12/08/09:  AgrOpinion. Daryl and Jody Donohue. Did Oklahoma State Bow to Activists?
12/09/09:  Daily Oklahoman. “OSU chief Burns Hargis discusses research decision: Burns Hargis had ended a project that would have resulted in euthanizing baboons.” Hargis says his decision was based on “confidential factors.”
12/09/09:  Science Blog’s ERV posts The Ballad of Leeroy Hargis in response to OSU President’s admission that he made a “rookie error” in his decision-making.
12/09/09:  Minneapolis Post. Sharon Schmickle. Animal rights vs research: OSU halts anthrax study.
12/09/09:  Advocates for Agriculture repost Minneapolis Post story, add commentary from rancher perspective OSU Bows to Activists Threat.
12/09:09:   Inside Higher Ed.  Scott Jaschik. Euthanized Research Project.
12/10/09:   Speaking of Research.  Dr. David P. Friedman.  University Leadership and Animal Research: A Dean’s Perspective.
12/10/09:  Newsweek.  The Primate Problem:  OSU has halted a baboon study, infuriating scientists. Are animal-rights extremists finally getting their way?
12/10/09:  Nature. Editorial. A slippery slope: Animal research policies should be guided by moral consensus, not by arbitrary decisions. Nature 462, 699 (10 December 2009) | doi:10.1038/462699b; Published online 9 December 2009.
12/10/09:  Negotiation is Over.  Direct Action Gets the Goods…Pre-emptively. <Warning: Animal Extremist Site>
12/11/09:  Science. Greg Miller. Animal Research: Rejection of Anthrax Study Kicks Up a Dust Storm in Oklahoma. Science 11 December 2009: Vol. 326. no. 5959, p. 1464. DOI: 10.1126/science.326.5959.1464

Mice uncover the secrets of Congenital Heart Defect

Every time your heart beats it pumps blood through the pulmonary artery and into your lungs where it soaks up oxygen before bring returned via the pulmonary vein to the heart, where the next beat pumps it out through the aorta and on to provide oxygen to all the tissues of your body.  All this is of course welcome to those of us who enjoy being alive, but there was one time in your life when such pulmonary circulation was a potential threat.  During fetal development the lungs are bathed in amniotic fluid and the body is supplied with oxygen via the placenta, and at this stage the pressure of blood being circulated through them would damage the delicate fetal lungs. Fortunately evolution has provided mammals with a means of avoiding this damage, a blood vessel called the ductus arteriosus which connects the pulmonary artery to the aorta, allowing most of the circulating blood to bypass the lungs.  As a baby takes its first breaths after birth the ductus arteriosus begins to close to allow normal pulmonary circulation to take place, a process that is normally complete within a few days. Unfortunately the ductus arteriosus does not always close, causing a condition known as Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA). If left untreated PDA can cause breathing difficulties and eventually lead to congestive heart failure, and is a particularly common and serious condition for preterm infants.  While it sometimes resolves itself with minimal intervention in many cases surgery is required to correct the fault.  Now research on mice has enabled scientists to uncover a key process in the closure of the ductus arteriosus that may show the way to less invasive treatments (1).

RA=right atrium, RV=right ventricle, PA=pulmonary artery, AO=aorta, LA=left atrium and LV=left ventricle

The team lead by  Dr Steffen Massberg and Dr Katrin Echtler in Munich knew from previous research that the closing of the ductus arteriosus was associated with the release of cytokines that are usually associated with the inflammatory response seen when tissue is damaged.  Knowing that such inflammatory responses recruit platelets, irregularly-shaped bodies produced by bone marrow cells that are crucial to blood clotting, to the damaged tissue they investigated the role of platelets in the closing of the ductus arteriosus. They decided to study the process in mice because the availability of a variety of tissue staining and genetic modification techniques which would allow them to study the whole process in great detail. They observed that within an hour of birth cells lining the ductus arteriosus were detached to provide attachment sited for platelets, and the platelets themselves quickly accumulated and soon formed a plug that stopped blood flow. They next used monoclonal antibodies and GM modification to remove two proteins that are required for platelet adhesion and activation, and found that the ductus arteriosus failed to close in the newborn mice, leading to the same problems seen in human babies with PDA.  The role of platelets was not confined to the initial blocking of the ductus arteriosus, Dr Echtler and her colleagues found that the platelets also attracted the specialized precursor cells that are required to remodel the ductus arteriosus and replace the temporary plug with a more permanent closure.

So it appears that platelets play a key role in the closure of the ductus arterious in mice, but what about humans?  While they could not study the process in the same detail in human babes as in mice they were able to obtain good evidence supporting a vital role for platelets in humans too.  First they examined samples of ductus arteriosus taken from newborn infants who had undergone heart surgery, and observed the same modifications to the lining of the ductus arteriosus  and platelet accumulation that they had seen in the mice.  They then studied a group of 123 premature infants and found a strong association between low platelet counts and PDA , further evidence that platelets are required for closure of the ductus arteriosus in humans just as they are in mice.

In an interview for the BBC stated that  “It is conceivable that transfusion of platelets reduces the risk of ductus arteriosus patency (lack of closure) in preterm newborns with low platelet count.”. We hope that he is right and that this discovery leads to a revolution in the treatment of PDA.  As for the question of where the platelets for such treatment will come from, that part is all up to you.

Regards

Paul Browne

1)    Echtler K. Et al “Platelets contribute to postnatal occlusion of the ductus arteriosus” Nature Medicine Published online: 6 December 2009 | doi:10.1038/nm.2060

University Leadership and Animal Research: A Dean’s perspective

I am a former NIH program manager and have been a research dean for almost 20 years.  I first had to deal with the effects of animal activism on research in 1984, when I was at NIH, and have worked on the issue ever since through my role at NIH, my scientific societies and my university.  I also use monkeys in my own research, am listed on animal activist websites and have received death threats.  I’d like to comment on the behavior of the Oklahoma State University administration that has turned down an approved anthrax study.

I find it both astounding and scandalous that an institution of higher education would surrender a research project in the face merely of anticipated animal activism, as the administration at OSU has intimated.  That this was a thoroughly reviewed biodefense study that could potentially contribute to national security, among the strongest possible research justifications, makes this action even more troubling.

This is a failure on several levels.  The OSU administration has failed to live up to its broad national duty to support biodefense research, even after receiving funds to build one of the scarce large animal BSL3 facilities in which such work can be safely carried out.  It has failed in its obligation to both its local and the broader scientific community by encouraging the violent tactics of animal extremists and not clearly articulating a defensible rationale for this unprecedented action.  And it has failed its duty to its faculty by not consulting with them before undertaking a potentially far-reaching move that can’t help but threaten their morale and weaken the overall research environment.

Universities should and can resist animal activists.  If nothing else, permitting emotionally driven activists to interfere with highly vetted and appropriate research challenges the very foundations of the university as a place of discovery, free inquiry and enlightened teaching.  One of the first goals of university leadership should be to uphold those principles.  But this strategic failure is only part of the picture.  The decision is ultimately self-defeating, both for OSU and the larger biomedical research community.  Giving in to terrorists, which is what animal extremists are when they abandon reasoned argument and resort to threats and violence, only reinforces their belief that violence can be effective against animal research.

Remarkably, OSU has capitulated to (of all things) imagined threats. The activists, of course, want universities to censor their own behavior, and to the extent that extremists feel that the use of violence will lead other institutions to behave like OSU, they will only be emboldened.  University leadership should be standing up to activists to enable their faculty to do the research that benefits us all, not trying to figure out how to avoid that role after the least provocation.

The University of California, Los Angeles eventually learned this lesson.  After several unfortunate instances it finally stood up for its faculty and to the activists, who were using public threats and physical violence to get their way.  UCLA took legal action against the extremists, it provided security for faculty who came under attack, and perhaps most importantly the chancellor delivered a strong statement in support of biomedical research.

Many institutions already knew these things had to be done and others have learned the lessons of UCLA and are moving proactively to protect their faculty and research programs.

I know university research administrators are often not loved by the faculty.  But there are many institutions where the deans use their resources to fully support appropriately reviewed and approved animal research, no matter what the species. This, frankly, is what you should expect from all of us.  We should work to supply an environment that fosters research and that supports you if the going ever gets tough.  Abandoning our faculty and mission in the face of animal extremist tactics should never be an option.  To do so because of something that just might be over the horizon shouldn’t even enter into the conversation.

David P. Friedman, Ph.D.

The views expressed on this blog post are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer, Wake Forest University Health Sciences.

OSU President Yet to Explain Decision to Cancel Primate Project

The rapidly growing controversy over Oklahoma State University’s President Burns Hargis decision to cancel a research project has attracted national attention for a number of reasons.  The November 30th Daily Oklahoman report on Hargis’ decision has ignited discussion and calls for both reversal of the decision and accountability in addressing the many questions that have been raised about decision-making at OSU. Science bloggers—including ERV, Drug Monkey, and Scicurious at Neurotopia— and commentary by their readers highlight the range and type of concern. Speaking of Research provided analysis that places the single research project into the broader context of OSU’s efforts to grow its research program over the past several years. Science magazine’s Greg Miller reported on the story in Science Insider. On December 2nd, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States, representing 22 scientific societies and more than 90,000 members, released a statement:

The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) finds the reports of the cancellation of an anthrax study involving nonhuman primates at Oklahoma State University (OSU) to be troubling. ‘We are concerned that this undercuts the role of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), and blocks the use of appropriate animal models in crucial biodefense research,’ said FASEB President, Mark O. Lively, Ph.D.

Animal activists groups have also joined in.  Hargis has been praised for his action by Madeleine Pickens, wife of wealthy donor T. Boone Pickens, on her website. Re-posting a story from DVM Magazine, Pickens places her commendation in the article’s title, adding to it “Kudos for a Great Decision!” and underscores the statement within:

a ‘generous benefactor’ to OSU and her ties to the Humane Society of the United States may have played a role in the termination of the project.

Speaking of Research encourages interest and public dialogue about the role of responsible use of animals in research.  We also call for attention to the major issues raised by this situation, which are:  Who should be empowered to interfere with funded research, and by what process should this occur?

Disagreement about the use of animals in research, about specific procedures, allocation of resources, and national funding priorities are all issues that merit national, public dialogue with an engaged citizenry.  These issues should not, however, be settled by the actions of a single individual who seeks to overturn the decisions and interfere with the processes of the many that are involved in distribution of federal and state monies, scientific review, and institutional oversight of research.

On Friday, an opinion piece by Hargis, formerly a businessman, appeared in the local newspaper and appeared to have the goal of reassuring Oklahomans and others that his decision was in the best interest of his university. The piece is titled “OSU’s best interests at center of decision.”  Others have provided analysis of potential problems with his statement and have called for him to address questions that still remain unanswered. Speaking of Research agrees that there are many questions that Hargis has dodged in his statement and we will return to more detailed analysis of those in a subsequent post if they remain unresolved.

Of immediate concern however, is the fact that Hargis appears to feel confident that he is not only competent to make decisions about scientific research, but is also correct to do so based upon consideration of narrow interests.  We disagree.  Hargis is interfering with research that is part of a much larger family of work that addresses essential questions with relevance to human health. The research at the center of this controversy is a line of work undertaken because it reflects research priorities identified not only by the scientific community, but by state and federal agencies.

The line of research that Hargis is interfering with is aimed at evaluation and development better vaccines to protect our troops and our citizens against bioterrorist agents.  Although Hargis is attempting to focus attention on a single project, the implications of his decision-making about this project are much broader.  Allowed to stand, the consequences of this decision will go well beyond the local community and have the potential to influence the course of bioterrorism research.

It is possible that Hargis does not understand the process by which decisions are made about dedicating resources and funds for research by federal and state agencies. It is also possible that he does not understand the process that moves science and health research forward.  Scientific progress and advancements in medicine most often depends upon interconnection between research projects, collaboration between scientists at different institutions, and sharing of resources and facilities.  The project at OSU appears to exemplify this, with collaboration and sharing of resources and facilities between scientists at OSU and other institutions.  Rather than recognize this strength, Hargis has leveraged it to explain his action, saying:  “The financial impact to OSU would have been minor and OSU’s role would have been limited…”

Burns Hargis

It is hard to believe that Oklahoma’s citizens and elected officials would support Hargis’ decision to act according to such narrow interests.  Although Hargis is charged only with leading OSU, it would seem that he should also be held responsible for serious consideration of how his actions affect the broader public, including the state and federal interests that underlie funding for OSU’s facilities.

Clarification and explanation of many aspects of the OSU situation remain to be provided by OSU’s administration.  We hope that this clarification is forthcoming and that Hargis will make himself available for an open public discussion of the situation rather than issuing statements or op-ed pieces with scant information.  Thus far, to our knowledge, Hargis has failed to hold an open press conference, nor have state officials or regents addressed the issue publicly.

Of the many questions that remain to be addressed, one is whether Hargis has used his office to subvert public processes in an attempt to support the agenda of animal activists. In his op-ed, Hargis appears to deny animal activist influence in his decision:

It has been suggested that this decision was reached arbitrarily and it was influenced by animal rights activists as well as a donor. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The appearance of the congratulatory post on activist Madeleine Picken’s website, along with a previous controversy involving OSU and Pickens, conveys, however, the impression that Hargis’ attention is to wealthy donors rather than to national priorities for public health research.  Applauding Hargis’ action is, in many ways, applauding a course of action that is in opposition to democratic process.

If Hargis wants to make his office the arena for both dialogue and debate about animal research, Speaking of Research will applaud his desire to engage in an essential discussion.  What should be understood by Hargis and others is that interfering in a line of research already endorsed at federal, state, and local levels is an action that is deeply troubling and will receive widespread attention until it is reversed. Hargis is presumably accountable to the state legislature and citizens of Oklahoma.  If he is unwilling to provide clarification about this situation in a manner that addresses the many questions raised, we ask that others step in to do so.  Contact information for state officials is below.

Allyson J. Bennett, Ph.D.

Speaking of Research

The views expressed on this blog post are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer, Wake Forest University Health Sciences.

 

Oklahoma’s two Senators are:
Tom Coburn, M.D. http://coburn.senate.gov/public/
James M. Inhofe http://inhofe.senate.gov/public/
and their Congressional Representatives are:
Dan Boren  http://boren.house.gov/
Tom Cole  http://www.cole.house.gov/
Mary Fallin  http://fallin.house.gov/index.html
Frank Lucas  http://www.house.gov/lucas/
John Sullivan http://sullivan.house.gov/
The appropriate people to contact in the Oklahoma State legislature are
probably the members of the Higher Education and Public health
committees in the House of Representatives
http://www.okhouse.gov/Committees/Comm_CommitteeMembers.aspx?CommitteeID=70&SubcommitteeID=0
http://www.okhouse.gov/Committees/Comm_CommitteeMembers.aspx?CommitteeID=74&SubcommitteeID=0
and the Public Safety and homeland Security committee in the state
Senate, who can be found starting from.
http://www.lsb.state.ok.us/