Pharma industry lobbies Congress for solution to primate shortage after indictments for alleged smuggling
The US Fish and Wildlife Service has been denying applications to import non-human primates for the past few weeks, and it’s creating a “crisis,” the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR) said in a letter lobbying Congress released this week.
The federal agency has been denying applications for imports, specifically of the long-tailed macaque, also known as the crab-eating macaque, after allegations of smuggling of the primate from the wilds of Cambodia into the US were made public in late 2022, STAT reported.
Letters addressed to unnamed companies from the Fish and Wildlife Service denying the application for imports of the monkey reference a case out of a South Florida court. That case alleges high-ranking Cambodian officials and employees of Vanny Bio Research, based out of Hong Kong, have been laundering and smuggling wild crab-eating macaques as captive-bred primates.
“The indictment identifies facilities established in Cambodia for the captive breeding of crab-eating macaques to be sold on the world market and indicates that these facilities illegally purchased crab-eating macaques from black-market suppliers who had illegally collected these crab-eating macaques from the wild,” the application from the Fish and Wildlife Service reads.
“Further, the indictment indicates that these facilities euthanized captive-bred specimens found unsuitable for export and transferred their identification tags to the wild-caught macaques and secured CITES export permits that falsely identified these wild-caught macaques as captive-bred,” it continues.
In a press release, Vanny Bio Research “strongly denies” any wrongdoing.
Now the NABR has rounded up companies and organizations for a petition to the federal government asking for solutions to the primate shortage.
The letter from NABR says that 60% of the supply of primates critical to drug development work are being denied permits, slowing the biopharma pipeline and impairing research, industry growth, scientific advancement and life-saving treatments.
“The gravity of this situation cannot be understated. A sustainable solution to this critical issue is urgently needed for all stakeholders,” the NABR letter reads.
The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), the California Biomedical Research Association (CBRA) and Charles River Laboratories are three of the 13 organizations and companies listed on the letter.
Charles River was hit with a subpoena from the US Department of Justice as part of the investigation into shipments of non-human primates from Cambodia, the manufacturing and research company announced during its Q4 and year-end earnings call.
A spokesperson for Charles River said in an emailed statement to Endpoints News that the company had “a number” of shipments from its Cambodian supplier denied clearance by the Fish and Wildlife Service.
“We have also voluntarily suspended planned, future shipments of Cambodian NHPs until such time we and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can develop and implement new procedures to reinforce confidence that the NHPs we import from Cambodia are purpose-bred,” the spokesperson said.
The Fish and Wildlife Service, NABR and Vanny Bio Research did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A representative for BIO declined to comment.