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Medicine Science

OSU President Cans Anthrax Vaccine Research On Primates 230

Posted by Soulskill
from the think-of-the-primates dept.
Wrath0fb0b writes "Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis has abruptly canceled an NIH-funded study on an anthrax vaccine in primates. (The primates would have to be euthanized afterward.) There is suspicion that the decision was meant to appease large donor Madeleine Pickens, the wife of noted huntsman T. Boone Pickens, who had previously pressured the school over animal-rights issues. Scientists counter that the study was approved by the NIH peer-review process, the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) and subject to the Federal Animal Welfare Act (by virtue of using NIH money) and that the decision by the President has short-circuited months of planning and deliberation on the matter. Hargis has denied being influenced by Pickens and cited 'confidential factors' that he couldn't discuss, telling the faculty council that 'to go through every lurid detail is simply not prudent.' A post on Pickens' blog, on the other hand, obliquely takes credit for the 'great decision,' noting a faculty member's hunch that the '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.' Meanwhile, the NIH expressed displeasure at the decision, stating, 'NIH fully expects institutions to honor these assurances and commitment to complete NIH supported projects as requested, approved and funded.' Some OSU scientists speculated that the fiasco would make it harder for them to receive NIH funding in the future."
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OSU President Cans Anthrax Vaccine Research On Primates

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  • by peter303 (12292) on Monday December 21, 2009 @12:58PM (#30513582)
    The animal rights peopel have slowed down animal research in the US.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by happy_place (632005)
      The real problem with testing on animals, and then putting them to death, is that monkeys are cute. Cute animals cannot be subjected to research for the sake of society or even to save the lives of anthrax ridden monkeys. Rats work because most people think of rats as filthy and repugnant creatures. We need an ugly animal that's further up the foodchain--more human. Like say tree-sloths, or grad students... either of which people and professors would have no ethical qualms on experimenting on... or euthaniz
      • by shentino (1139071)

        Lawyers?

    • by wizardforce (1005805) on Monday December 21, 2009 @01:13PM (#30513804) Journal

      Or the animals PETA is euthanizing... Over 85% of the animals they take in are killed [petakillsanimals.com] instead of adopted. So many animals were killed by PETA in fact, that they purchaced a 9,000$ freezer to temporarily store the animals that have been killed.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Hurricane78 (562437)

        Protip: There are worse things than dead.

        E.g. being infected by some cruel disease, and then “treated” with a just as cruel experimental substance, to then have electrodes in your open brain, or similar sick shit. If that ever happens to me, I hope I’m not gotta get “saved” by some egocentric* dogmatic** tree-hugging “p.c.” asshole, to become a drooling cripple instead of being freed from it. Because as soon as I can move, I’m gonna bash his head in, for not k

        • in 2007, PETA workers were tried for 37 counts of animal cruelty. They were also guilty of killing and then "disposing" of dead animals in dumpsters. PETA isn't being kind by killing these animals; they're just following the line of reasoning and behavior that they've always gravitated toward: that raising funding through crazy stunts is more important than the welfare of any animals under their care.

      • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Monday December 21, 2009 @03:30PM (#30515648)

        Or the animals PETA is euthanizing... Over 85% of the animals they take in are killed instead of adopted.

        Keep in mind that PETA doesn't approve of the IDEA of pets. As far as they're concerned, they're doing good by preventing adoptions of animals. Killing them is just the easiest way of taking that preventative step.

  • Not OSU (Score:3, Informative)

    by forand (530402) on Monday December 21, 2009 @01:06PM (#30513698) Homepage
    While I am sure that Oklahoma State University refers to itself as 'OSU' if you go to osu.edu you will get The Ohio State University.
    • Did you go to okstate.edu [okstate.edu], Oklahoma State University's home page? They refer to themselves as "OSU" on multiple occasions, most notably the big "About OSU" link at the home. Just because Ohio State snatched the domain first doesn't mean they can't both be called "OSU". (You should try living in Iowa but close to Illinois and guess which "U [of] I" people are talking about.)

      • by forand (530402)
        Then my point is made, referring to it as OSU is ambiguous at best.
        • by nedlohs (1335013)

          Since the first world of the summary it Oklahama it isn't ambiguous. Sure someone might think the wrong place from the headline, but the headline also can't be ten pages long...

    • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

      While the headline should have explicitly stated "Oklahoma State University" rather than simply "OSU," I'm not sure how Ohio gets the right to the acronym. Growing up in Oklahoma and attending a Big 12 School, my assumption is that OSU refers to Oklahoma State.

      And don't forget those kids in Oregon and their amusingly named mascot -- especially when playing USC.

      • by sconeu (64226)

        Funny, before I read TFS, I thought it was Oregon State University.

      • by EricWright (16803)

        Ohio State University ... excuse me, THE Ohio State University (does that piss anyone else off?) was founded in 1870. Oklahoma State University was founded in 1890. I'd say Ohio, err... THE Ohio State University has a 20 year head start if there's going to be a fight over the acronym.

        Just sayin'...

      • by MobyDisk (75490)

        Is that the University of Southern California, or the University of Southern Colorado? You should be more specific.

  • by jayhawk88 (160512) <jayhawk88@gmail.com> on Monday December 21, 2009 @01:08PM (#30513726)

    Look, you might as well be honest about it. T Boone owns your university at this point, everyone knows it. You may as well just rename it for him and get it over with.

    • by igaborf (69869) on Monday December 21, 2009 @01:56PM (#30514386)
      Sure, and they can call the Agricultural College "Boone's Farm."
  • What? Oh. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Monday December 21, 2009 @01:09PM (#30513736)
    Will he be marketing this canned anthrax to the general public? Does Homeland Securitah know about this?
  • by John Hasler (414242) on Monday December 21, 2009 @01:10PM (#30513756) Homepage

    Too bad. It would be better to use something closer to humans.

  • Simple solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nedlohs (1335013) on Monday December 21, 2009 @01:11PM (#30513764)

    NIH should put OSU on a blacklist and not fund anything involving them until OSU provides a valid (as judged by NIH) explanation for why they wasted the time (and money) of NIH.

    OSU is of course free to not do so and rely on non-NIH funding. Or there might be a perfectly valid reason that they don't want to disclose publicly that they can provide to NIH.

    • Re:Simple solution (Score:5, Informative)

      by pz (113803) on Monday December 21, 2009 @02:06PM (#30514520) Journal

      NIH should put OSU on a blacklist and not fund anything involving them until OSU provides a valid (as judged by NIH) explanation for why they wasted the time (and money) of NIH.

      OSU is of course free to not do so and rely on non-NIH funding. Or there might be a perfectly valid reason that they don't want to disclose publicly that they can provide to NIH.

      It's actually a little worse than this. I have currently, and have had NIH funding in the past as well. They take things seriously. When you are awarded a grant, either you, the individual resaercher, or the university where you work, sign a contract stipulating that the work will be done as described. (Exactly who signs these contracts varies from grant to grant.) Sometimes there are serious penalty clauses. Naturally, each institution negotiates its own contracts, and I am not privvy to the ones that OSU has with the NIH, but if my home institution is a good indicator, OSU is screwed here. Pickens better have promised a heap of money in compensation.

      Also, the heads of universities are, generally, not idiots. At least the ones I've met have been actual leaders, rather than just figureheads, and understand the potential fallout from a major decision like this: faculty revolt, potential lawsuits from post-docs and graduate students whose projects have been cancelled, blacklisting by the NIH (and possibly the Department of Defence who also fund anthrax research), loss of stature for the department, potential lawsuit from the NIH for breach of contract, etc. There must have been a very compelling reason (like a pledge of lots and lots of money; a standard NIH contract represents about $1.5 million, and if there were say 10 faculty members who now have NIH grants that have been placed at risk, the donation needs to be in the tens-to-hundreds of millions of dollars range). Their entire bioterrorism program has been put at risk.

      I'm going to express an unfounded speculation: on the face of it, with all of the potential downsides, seems like it's a mistake, and a better solution could have been found (like curing the animals of anthrax once the study was over and then retiring them to an animal conservation range).

  • Bullshit (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PakProtector (115173) <cevkiv@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Monday December 21, 2009 @01:12PM (#30513784) Journal

    I worked at a Humane Society once. Animal Testing is not Animal Cruelty.

    I wish that everyone who thinks we shouldn't do animal testing would volunteer to be have said tests run on themselves. Maybe then they would understand that Human Life is more valuable than Animal Life.

    Just as it is better that ten guilty men go free than one innocent man suffer, so it is better that ten animals die in the name of science than one human being die because a vaccine was not properly tested, or, worse still, never brought to market because of a lack of testing.

    • Just as it is better that ten guilty men go free than one innocent man suffer

      It's really not better to let ten guilty men go free, though. That's the thing.

      • by Joehonkie (665142)
        So you're ok with putting innocent men in jail, just in case?
        • by aardvarkjoe (156801) on Monday December 21, 2009 @01:52PM (#30514328)

          So you're ok with putting innocent men in jail, just in case?

          From a perfectly rational perspective, allowing, for instance, ten violent criminals to go free probably does more overall harm to society than imprisoning one innocent man. That doesn't mean that it's OK, but it's better than the alternative. You can argue what the threshold should be. Maybe you really think that it would be better to release every imprisoned person in the world, because there are bound to be innocent people among them, but I don't think you'd get much support for that idea.

          • by Jawn98685 (687784)

            From a perfectly rational perspective, allowing, for instance, ten violent criminals to go free probably does more overall harm to society than imprisoning one innocent man. That doesn't mean that it's OK, but it's better than the alternative. You can argue what the threshold should be. Maybe you really think that it would be better to release every imprisoned person in the world, because there are bound to be innocent people among them, but I don't think you'd get much support for that idea.

            Spoken like someone who failed history-101 and civics-101 (or perhaps more accurately, and no less sadly, one who was never taught these things).

            Once you "rationalize" that some (usually ill-defined) collective good outweighs an individual's civil rights, it is a steep and slippery slope. History is littered with examples where "rational" thinking such as yours led, in astonishingly short order, to the most horrific examples of human rights abuses.

            • by Old97 (1341297)
              Well Mr. Historian, are you absolutely sure every prisoner in every country is guilty of the crimes for which they were convicted? What society in history never imprisoned an innocent person? What society in history has been so unwilling to make a mistake that they do nothing? Assuming you can think of one, how long did it survive?
        • by tjstork (137384)

          So you're ok with putting innocent men in jail, just in case?

          No, but the point is that the justice system serves a purpose to keep society safe. There is a probability that it will make mistakes and punish the innocent, and there is a social cost for that, and there is a cost to setting guilty men free. The most desirable outcome, logically, is the maximum of that system, and I highly doubt that the number is empirically 10.

          • by Qzukk (229616) on Monday December 21, 2009 @02:19PM (#30514690) Journal

            There is a probability that it will make mistakes and punish the innocent, and there is a social cost for that, and there is a cost to setting guilty men free.

            The cost of letting a guilty man go free is always less than the cost of punishing the innocent, since unless the crime was completely fabricated, a guilty man went free so that the innocent man could be punished.

      • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

        Well then what is your threshhold? Is it better to let 5 innocent men suffer than let 10 guilty men go free? Is it better to let 10 innocent men suffer than let 10 guilty men go free?

        Why don't we just imprison everybody, just to make sure a handful of guilty men don't get through the cracks?

        • by tomhath (637240)

          Well then what is your threshhold?

          That's the real question. Whether it's 5, 10 , 100, or 1000, the only way to ensure you never imprison an innocent person is to refuse to imprison anyone.

          Of course there's another threshold you need to consider. Is it better to let 10 innocent people be murdered than imprison one innocent person? Where do you draw the line? The families of those four policemen who were murdered by a paroled felon last month would like to hear your answer.

          • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

            Of course, everything is relative. I think the real meaning of the quote though, which the person to which I was responding seemed to be missing, is the importance of the presumption of innocence.

          • by shentino (1139071)

            There is no answer as long as asshole criminals are willing to break the law. And naturally they will use every trick in the book to get away with it, including getting society tangled up in moral debates.

            In that respect they are like spammers.

          • by Qzukk (229616)

            The families of those four policemen who were murdered by a paroled felon last month would like to hear your answer.

            And you'll talk to the families of the little boys who were raped while Ricardo Rachell [blogspot.com] sat in prison for a crime he didn't commit?

          • That a felon happened to kill someone while on parole isn't, in itself, a case for not letting people out on parole any more than someone without a previous criminal record killing another person is a case for putting everyone in jail where they can't hurt anyone.
    • I worked at a Humane Society once. Animal Testing is not Animal Cruelty.

      I wish that everyone who thinks we shouldn't do animal testing would volunteer to be have said tests run on themselves.

      Doesn't it matter what the purpose of the testing is?

      I'm all behind using primate models for antibiotic testing. I'm entirely against animal models for cosmetics research.

      • I'm all behind using primate models for antibiotic testing. I'm entirely against animal models for cosmetics research.

        I don't know about that. It would suck if the latest, untested mascara made my GF go blind. Though it might be nice if she didn't notice my sloppy housekeeping.

    • by Old97 (1341297)
      Some kinds of animal testing is animal cruelty. It depends on how it is conducted and for what purpose. A lot of abuse has occurred over the years which is why the scientific community and its funders have invested heavily in developing protocols, review processes and inspections to prevent abuses. In my review the research should be for a very important purpose and researchers should take maxim care to avoid inflicting unnecessary pain or discomfort. Anthrax vaccines seem to be an important purpose. E
    • Re:Bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

      by nycguy (892403) on Monday December 21, 2009 @01:53PM (#30514344)
      First off, your archaic use of capitalization is interesting.

      Animal testing is certainly cruel to the animals involved. Whether that cruelty to animals is justified by the savings in cruelty to humans is a matter of debate.

      The argument can also be made, though, that some human beings' lives are more valuable than others. Certainly every society practices this, no matter what beliefs they profess, as some members of every society (e.g., chieftans, priesthood, nobility, aristocrats, "party members") receive a disproportionate allocation of that society's resources. So, we could just go down that route. Already done that [wikipedia.org], of course.

      A better argument against animal testing would be that a society that practices cruelty to animals is one step closer to practicing cruelty to its fellow humans. A society that respects animal life, on the other hand, is more likely to respect human life.

      Finally, your oft-stated argument that "better that ten guilty men go free than one innocent man suffer" is specious. The ten guilty men will almost certainly victimize other innocents, which is why we incarcerate them in the first place. An argument of "better that a guilty man go free than an innocent man suffer" would carry more water.
      • Finally, your oft-stated argument that "better that ten guilty men go free than one innocent man suffer" is specious. The ten guilty men will almost certainly victimize other innocents

        Oddly, you make his point for him. We know they will victimize others and yet, we still hold "presumption of innocence" as one of the highest moral and legal values in our country.
      • by Toonol (1057698)
        Finally, your oft-stated argument that "better that ten guilty men go free than one innocent man suffer" is specious. The ten guilty men will almost certainly victimize other innocents, which is why we incarcerate them in the first place. An argument of "better that a guilty man go free than an innocent man suffer" would carry more water.

        Ten free guilty men probably will cause more damage, and yet it's STILL TRUE that it would be better than jailing an innocent man. That's because it's not a purely pra
    • Ok, let me hear your justification, why you think you are more valuable than someone else (e.g. a chimpanzee, or a raven, or a dolphin) and why you are the center of the universe.

      Next thing I know, is you telling me about the “supremacy” of the “white man”.

      I bet many animals are in many areas more intelligent, more valuable and more productive for our society. If only because they know the value of other individuals...

      And yeah: I think animal tests should be replaced by human tests.

  • I am certain that the Chinese would take this research money, and use political prisoners instead of primates for experimentation. They then can "euthanize" them after the experiment, and PETA would not complain. Besides, they would probably have "euthanized" them anyway.

    Better yet, some US Pharma company can fund this on the cheap, then patent the resulting drug and make huge profits.

    Works out all the way around, well, except for the subjects of the experiment.

    • by canajin56 (660655)
      You say this like it would shock PETA, who themselves advocate this option. PETA's opinion is that if a disease would kill everybody within a week, but a single animal test could save everybody, animal testing is still not an option. PETA's founder goes one step further, saying that disease research should not be done at all, even if no animals are harmed, because disease is natures way of correcting the error that allowed humans to exist, and we have no right to fight back, and should just die already an
  • by idiot900 (166952) * on Monday December 21, 2009 @01:16PM (#30513834)

    What a stupid move.

    NIH study sections will now perceive Oklahoma State as an institution that isn't prepared to do research that they have been awarded a grant to do. There are plenty of other institutions willing keep their promises; why take a chance on this one?

    They'll also have a harder time attracting good faculty who can win grants. Why would a good scientist go to an institution that will arbitrarily stop her research? And why would good scientists who get offers from other institutions choose to stay? That will impact their bottom line.

    Not to mention competent biology students will want to go someplace where politics doesn't interfere in their education.

  • animal rights boils down to a simple statement. Is a (non-human) animals life worth less than a humans. If you say yes, then animal testing is a no brainer. If you say no, then its not. Of course you have sub-issues like behaving in a humane manner, but that is really not the root of the issue.

    This same simplicity can also be put to things like abortion, guns, and even healthcare***. The problem in our country is that we dont actually try to answer the question at the root of the issue, we nip at the corner

  • Hargis has denied being influenced by Pickens and cited 'confidential factors' that he couldn't discuss

    How is that even legal? He’s working for public research. The only reason he gets to decide things, is because the public allows him to do so, and pays everything around him, including himself.

    Or am I wrong about this?

    And the only reason they let him decide, is because he tells them the reasons and therefore is supposed to e trustworthy.

    So Mr. Pickens, you better explain yourself, if you don’t want to get your ass kicked so hard, that you think you’re staked! ^^

    Unless I’m seriously w

    • Lol. I meant Mr Haggis. Must have been a Freudian slip, with them being “in bed” with each other...

      • Lol. I meant Mr. Hargis. Must have been a Freudian slip, with me being nauseous from thinking about it...

        Then again, when I think about “in bed” and “haggis” at the same time... <Colbert-style>*gags*</Colbert-style>

  • I've seen the kind of monstrous experiments that have passed an IRB and gotten all kinds of funding. The problem is, so long as it's good research that can't be done any other way, generally these boards are willing to approve horrific things. Lopping off of the top of an ape skull for easy insertion of single cell recording devices, permanently affixing a cat's head into a cement frame to stop it from moving so they can do visual cortex experiments, they may be good science, but they're ethically unaccepta

  • by Mr. Protocol (73424) on Monday December 21, 2009 @06:18PM (#30517650)

    As one observer noted, most university presidents are not idiots. Any that were in there were Darwinned out during the 1960s and not replaced (my own was replaced at that time by a labor negotiator). Hence, we can assume the alternative was worse.

    There's a likely scenario: Clarabelle Pickens drops her support. It's a huge chunk of change. The legislature, strapped, does not replace it. The NIH grants can't come close to covering it, not to mention the fact they're not growing anyway. Result: everything gets cut, including the athletic budget. At this point, for the first time, the alumni get PO'ed and cut their contributions, and all life on earth as we know it comes to an end.

    At that point, losing NIH looks like the best of a bad lot, so the tap-dancing begins.

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