ANIMAL LAB SHUTS DOWN AFTER WE REVEAL HORRORS
Extract from the Daily Express, 28 September 2000, by Lucy Johnston
and Jonathan Calvert
ONE OF BRITAIN's most high-profile animal experimentation projects
has been shut down following revelations in the Daily Express.
The UK-based company Imutran - a world leader in research aimed
at adapting pig organs for human transplant - announced yesterday
it was moving its operation to America.
Last week the Daily Express published secret details revealing
the reality behind the company's xenotransplantation research on
monkeys (see Terrible despair of animals
cut up in the name of research).
The documents showed that Imutran had exaggerated the success of
its work at Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, and that the experiments
involved horrific suffering. Our findings shocked animal rights
campaigners, MPs and scientists, and led to calls for the research
to be banned.
Imutran's parent company Novartis is collaborating its research
with the US-based company BioTransplant, which has been using different
scientific techniques. Paul Herrling, head of global research at
Novartis, said: "From a scientific and business perspective,
this move makes sense for both companies and provides a great opportunity
to maximise our complementary technologies."
But last night animal rights groups claimed this move was evidence
that the company has failed in its attempts to overcome the problem
of organ rejection.
Dan Lyons, director of Uncaged and author of the Diaries of Despair
report based on the confidential documents, said: "Imutran's
closure in the UK vindicates the points the Express made in their
article and we made in our report. It is a shame so many animals
have had to suffer for so long and been destroyed in this pointless
and cruel research programme. We are demanding an urgent independent
Government inquiry into how this research could have gone ahead
in the first place."
The documents uncovered by the Express showed that the xenotransplantation
work was one of the most extreme programmes of animal experimentation
to take place in the UK this decade. It involved transplanting genetically
modified pigs' hearts and kidneys into monkeys. Thousands of pigs,
424 cynomolgus monkeys and 49 wild-caught baboons were used.
Over the past five years Imutran claimed to have been close to
solving the crucial issue of "organ rejection" which has
so far prevented trials on humans. But the Daily Express found that
scientific papers declaring new breakthroughs were misleading. In
one paper, it is claimed that no baboons died from "hyperacute"
reaction - when two excluded from the published study did.
A second study described a baboon which survived for 39 days with
a life-supporting pig heart as healthy throughout. But records showed
it was clearly suffering in the last days of its life. The heart
had grown in weight by three times, a fact not mentioned in the
Animal protection groups have demanded urgent action into the Daily
Express findings. Dr Maggy Jennings, head of the RSPCA's research
animals department, said the group was examining copies of the documentation.
"This incident highlights the need for more openness regarding
the use of animals in biomedical research," she said. "If
the Express claims are true, we will be calling for immediate Government
action." The Home Office is investigating our report and has
also obtained copies of the documents.