We at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology object to your publication of advertisements from the Humane Society of the United States that seem to misrepresent the importance of chimpanzees in biomedical research and testing (see, for example, facing page 407 in 22/29 December 2011 issue of Nature).
These advertisements claim that chimpanzees are a poor model for research into human disease because of their physiological and immunological differences. This contention is at odds with the findings of a US Institute of Medicine committee appointed to investigate whether chimpanzees are necessary for biomedical and behavioural research (see go.nature.com/ruthsl).
The committee, composed of scientific experts and led by a bioethicist, concluded that chimpanzees have been valuable models in the past and that, although “most current use of chimpanzees for biomedical research is unnecessary”, they are still needed to conclude research on monoclonal antibodies and possibly in the development of a prophylactic hepatitis C vaccine.
The committee emphasized that an outright ban on biomedical chimpanzee research would not be appropriate, in part because of new, emerging or re-emerging diseases that cannot be studied in non-chimpanzee models.