Future vaccines depend on undersupplied subjects: monkeys

Mark Lewis was desperate to find the monkey. Millions of lives were at stake around the world.

Mr. Lewis, CEO of Bioqual, was responsible for providing lab monkeys to the following pharmaceutical companies: Modana And Johnson & Johnson, Animals needed to develop the Covid-19 vaccine. However, as the coronavirus swept the United States last year, few specially bred monkeys were found anywhere in the world.

Unable to provide scientists with monkeys that cost more than $ 10,000, about 12 companies continued to vie for research animals during the heyday of the pandemic.

“We lost our job because we couldn’t supply the animals in time,” Lewis said.

To develop the Covid-19 vaccine, the world needs monkeys whose DNA is very similar to human DNA. However, the global shortage caused by the unexpected demand caused by the pandemic was exacerbated by the recent ban on the sale of wildlife from China, a major supplier of laboratory animals.

The recent shortage has revived the story of creating a strategic monkey sanctuary in the United States. This is an emergency stockpile similar to that maintained by the government for oil and grain.

Scientists are competing to find new sources of monkeys, as new variants of coronavirus can obsolete current batches of vaccines, and the United States has its own biotechnology ambitions. We are reassessing our dependence on our rival China.

The pandemic emphasizes how much China controls the supply of life-saving supplies. mask And Drug, What the United States needs in a crisis.

American scientists searched for stocks of their favorite subjects, rhesus monkeys and cynomolgus monkeys (also known as long-tailed macaques), in private and government-funded facilities in Southeast Asia, and in Mauritius, a small island nation in southeastern Africa.

But no country can supplement what China has previously supplied. Prior to the pandemic, China provided more than 60% of the 33,818 primates (mainly cynomolgus monkeys) imported into the United States in 2019, according to analysts’ estimates based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the United States, there are as many as 25,000 experimental monkeys (mainly pink-faced rhesus monkeys) in seven primate centers. Since the beginning of the pandemic, about 600-800 of these animals have been the subject of coronavirus research.

Scientists say monkeys are an ideal specimen for studying the coronavirus vaccine before it is tested in humans. Primates share more than 90% of our DNA, and their similar biology means that they can be tested with a nasal swab to scan the lungs. Scientists say it’s almost impossible to find an alternative to test the Covid-19 vaccine, DexamethasoneThe steroids used to treat President Donald J. Trump have been tested in hamsters.

The United States once relied on India for the supply of rhesus monkeys.But in 1978, India Stop exporting After the Indian media reported that monkeys were being used for military testing in the United States. The drug company looked for an alternative.

Eventually, they landed in China.

The pandemic has disrupted decades of relationships between American scientists and Chinese suppliers.

“When the Chinese market closed, it just forced everyone to go to a smaller number of available animals,” Lewis said.

For years, some airlines, including major American airlines Refused to transport animals Used in medical research for opposition from animal rights activists.

In the meantime, cynomolgus monkeys have more than doubled in price from a year ago, well above $ 10,000, Lewis said. Scientists studying cures for other diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and AIDS say their research has been delayed because coronavirus researchers have prioritized animals.

Due to the shortage, more and more American scientists are demanding the government to secure a constant supply of animals.

Skip Baume, Deputy Director and Chief Veterinary Medical Officer of the Tulane National Primate Research Institute on the outskirts of New Orleans He said the discussion of strategic monkey reserves began about 10 years ago among the directors of the National Primate Research Institute. However, due to the amount and time required to build a breeding program, stockpiles were never created.

“Our idea was like a strategic petroleum reserve in that there was a lot of fuel somewhere that was only used in an emergency,” said Professor Baume.

However, scientists say the government needs to take immediate action on stockpiles as new variants of the virus are discovered and vaccine competition may resume.

“A strategic monkey sanctuary was exactly what we needed to deal with Covid, and we didn’t have it,” said Harvard Medical School Virology and Vaccine Research Center Principal Investigator. Key Sleeves says.

However, as Chinese researchers have learned, strong strategic stockpiles may not yet be able to meet the surge in demand for laboratory animals. Despite having a stockpile of about 45,000 monkeys managed by the government, Chinese researchers say they are also tackling the shortage.

Researchers often collect hundreds of specimens from a single monkey. Monkey tissue is frozen over the years and studied over a long period of time. Scientists say they make the most of each animal, but Covid-19-infected monkeys can’t survive among other healthy animals and eventually euthanize. is needed.

Shen Wei Guo, general manager of Shanghai Technology Venture Capital Group, became a local legislator in January, and three major biomedical companies in the city received 2,750 research monkeys last year, according to state news media reports. He said it was in short supply. According to Shen, the shortfall is expected to increase by 15% each year over the next five years.

Hubei Topgene Biotechnology raises monkeys for its own research and export. The United States used to be the largest export destination, but now the company doesn’t have enough animals to carry out its own experiments, said sales manager Yang Shuo.

“Now it’s not a matter of money,” said Yang. “I don’t even sell monkeys overseas.”

The United States maintains seven National Primate Research Institutes, where animals live in colonies when not under study and have access to outdoor and enrichment activities. The facility is affiliated with a research university and is funded by the National Institutes of Health. Animal rights activists have long blamed the center of abuse, including separating babies from their mothers.

Matthew R. Bailey, chairman of the National Institute of Biomedical Research, said he is preparing to close the monkey shortage with the Biden administration. He said China’s decision to suspend exports at the beginning of the pandemic was “probably a wise emergency”, but given what is currently known about how the virus spreads, China He suggested that exports should be resumed.

China’s Foreign Ministry said the ban did not cover specific species or countries.

“”“China will actively consider approving imports and exports and resuming other related work,” the ministry said in a statement when international conditions improved and conditions for imports and exports were met.

Experts said the United States had to take some responsibility for not having enough research monkeys.

The National Primates Center’s budget has been flat or declining for over a decade. Koen Van Rompay, an infectious disease expert at the National Primate Research Institute in California, said the federal government requested the center to expand its breeding colony about 10 years ago, but did not increase funding and instead reduced the colony. It was.

“What we often did was give women contraception,” said Dr. Van Ronpei. “That’s why fewer babies will be born in the spring.”

At a panel hosted by the National Institutes of Health in December 2018, scientists discussed the challenges facing the supply of American primates. “If China decides to cut the plug, we will face serious problems,” said Jeffrey Roberts, deputy director of the National Primate Research Institute in California.

“The need to breed cynomolgus monkeys domestically is essential and, if unsatisfied, could endanger biomedical research across the United States,” the meeting reported. “They emphasized that it may already be too late to meet this need, but it will certainly be too late within a few months.”

Amber King And Elsie Chen Contributed to the research.

Future vaccines depend on undersupplied subjects: monkeys

Source link Future vaccines depend on undersupplied subjects: monkeys

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