Primate Experimentation in the US:
The Facts We Weren’t Supposed to Know

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Primate Experimentation in the US: The Facts We Weren’t Supposed to Know
By Michael A. Budkie, A.H.T.
513-575-5517 [email protected]  

How Much Money is Spent on Primate Experimentation?

Due to changes in the way that the USDA categorizes primates within research facilities, it is impossible to compare fiscal 2002 animal use statistics with those from previous years. Since trends cannot be elucidated by discussing individual animals, the number of research projects which utilize primates will be discussed. The National Institutes of Health is the government agency which funds the single largest portion of animal research. Therefore, the number of grants funded by this agency will be used as a gauge of the overall direction of primate experimentation. The time period used will be a ten-year span (1993 – 2002).

National Institutes of Health Primate Grants

Species  # 2002 grants #1993 grants    % increase
Macaque 1072 680 57.6
Baboon 177 101 75.2
Chimpanzee 62 31 100
Squirrel Monkey 94 77 22.1
Marmoset 40 22 81.8
Vervet 30 48           [ 38 ]
Aotus 28 15 86.7
Mangabey 12 4 200
Totals 1513 978 54.60%

As the table indicates, the use of primates in experimentation has increased by 54.6% in the last ten years. Searches within the NIH system on generic terms reveal similar trends. Projects utilizing monkeys increased by 51.9% over the same ten-year period (from 297 to 451), and projects using the word primate increased 77.6% in ten years (from 559 to 993).

Again, exact totals are not available regarding the amount of funding that primate experimentation receives from the federal government. However, an estimate can be derived from the number of grants listed above. The first step is to consider the Primate Research Center System facilities separately. These facilities comprise a large percentage of the primates in US labs, and they utilize primates in ways that may not show up in conventional CRISP searches. The annual federal funding (fiscal 2002) for the Primate Centers is $609,067,164. Individual Primate Centers are listed in the table below.

Primate Center System Funding

  Fiscal 2002 Fiscal 1997
Oregon Health Science University 128,067,513 40,770,052
University of Washington, Seattle 137,567,855 58,776,707
Emory University 102,974,826 11,825,854
University of Wisconsin, Madison 32,424,030 26,971,379
Harvard University 27,101,309 32,973,539
University of California, Davis 59,182,742 13,525,662
Tulane University 69,888,853 12,918,498
Total without Southwest 557,207,128 197,761,691
Southwest Foundation For Biomedical Research 51,860,036 n/a -- was not a part of the Center System in 1997
Total 2002 Primate Center System Funding $609,067,164  
Funding Increase    1997 – 2002           $359,445,437   or   182%

The primate center system accounts for about 25% of the primates within labs in the US, but these labs claim a much larger percentage of the funding. For fiscal 2002 these 8 labs brought in $609,067,164.

The funding directed to non-Primate Center System facilities accounts for 1134 of the 1513 grants listed above. The most recent average grant amount posted by the National Institutes of Health is approximately $300,000 per grant. When this is multiplied by the number of grants listed above we see that non-Primate Center labs receive $340,200,000 from the NIH. The Primate Centers receive roughly $609,000,000. When utilizing the Federal Research and Development website it is possible to search across the databases of the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), NSF (National Science Foundation), EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), and the SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research). Searching across these four systems reveals 517 projects with estimated funding of $155,100,000. Similarly, searching the DOD database (available at ) provides a total of 68 projects involving primates. Assuming the same cost level as the NIH, the DOD is spending approximately $20,400,000 on primate experimentation. This would give us a grant total of $ spent on primate experimentation from only two federal agencies. This total would not include funding of projects from agencies such as NASA, the USDA, etc. It would be safe to say that the federal government is currently spending $1,124,700,000 per year on primate experimentation.

2002 National Primate Experimentation Funding Estimate

Total of NIH-funded non-Primate CenterSystem Grants 1134 x $300,000 = $340,200,000
Total of NIH Primate Center Funding   $609,000,000
Total DOD projects 68 x $300,000 = $20,400,000
Other Federal Agencies (USDA, EPA, NSF, SBIR) 517  x $300,000 = $155,100,000
Estimated Total Federal Spending on Primate Experimentation         $1,124,700,000

Go on to:  What kinds of Experiments are Performed on Primates?
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