Media Coverage About SAEN Stop Animal Exploitation Now

Second federal complaint filed against Sanford Health research scientist



Thea R. Maddox Hofgesang
Director/Senior Contracting Official
US Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity (USAMRAA)
via email: [email protected]

Director Hofgesang,

You must immediately cut funding for all experiments at Sanford Health connected to Dr. Shanta Messereli who has twice been banned from all animal use. The DoD must not support investigators or staff who violate federal regulations.


Second federal complaint filed against Sanford Health research scientist

From Annie Todd,, August 1, 2022

An animal rights group has requested a U.S. Department of Defense investigation into a Sanford Health research scientist in a complaint sent Monday. The request is the latest escalation against the researcher.

Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN), based in Ohio, wrote that Shanta Messerli violated DoD policy on the use of animals in research and because of that, immediate investigation or termination of DoD-funded grants at Sanford Health should be considered.

"We thought it was important to notify them [DoD] of this because we don't believe that Sanford Health had done that and we wanted to make sure that the federal agency with the authority to cut the funding knows about the federal violations," Michael Budkie, a co-founder of SAEN, said.

The complaint stems from a Freedom of Information Act request the group filed for a report into compliance issues at Sanford that led to Messerli being permanently banned from working with animals

SAEN filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on July 26, asking for an investigation into the researcher.

Messerli had been banned from working with animals once in January 2021, according to a letter obtained by the group signed by David Pearce, President of Research and World Clinic at Sanford.
Subsequently, Messerli was approved to work with animals for two specific experiments with direct supervision, according to the letter dated May 2, 2022. But, she violated animal protocol again and was permanently banned from working with animals, according to the letter.
The experiments and animals used were not detailed in the letter.Budkie said it was during the second experiment, which was funded by the DoD, that led SAEN to file the complaint.
He added that it was unheard of for a researcher to be banned twice from working with animals.

"[DoD] should be aware of how serious the situation is," he said.

Messerli has a PhD in neuroscience from Purdue University and preformed her postdoctoral training at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, according to a staff biography on Sanford Research's website. She focuses on "evaluating the efficacy and therapeutic effect of small molecule inhibitors in murine models of breast and brain cancers."

Sanford Health pointed the Argus Leader to a statement they made last week when the original complaint against Messerli was filed.

In that statement, they wrote, “Sanford Health is committed to providing high-quality health care to the patients it serves," the statement read. "Our team of skilled physicians, caregivers and medical researchers adhere to the highest level of animal care in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act as it relates to medical coursework, research and training.”

It's unclear what the next steps are. The DoD did not respond to an immediate request for comment.

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