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Primate Center to Close

Harvard Medical School is shuttering its nearly 50-year-old primate research facility due to cost concerns, the Nature News Blog reports. The New England Primate Research Center currently houses about 2,000 monkeys, which the school says will be transferred to other primate centers or remain at NEPRC during the closure process, which could take two years.

In a statement, the school said that "driving the decision was the fact that the external funding environment for scientific research has become increasingly challenging over the past decade. Recent funding pressures have added uncertainty to this already-challenging fiscal context."

The center, blogger DrugMonkey points out, "lists an impressive series of accomplishments." That list includes contributions to establishing that AIDS is caused by a virus, developing nonhuman primate models of colon cancer and inflammatory bowel disease, and more.

NENPRC has also had its share of troubles. In a blog post, the Boston Globe says that the center had been cited by the US Department of Agriculture for animal welfare violations. The school says its decision to close the center was not related to these problems.

Nancy Haigwood, the director of the Oregon National Primate Research Center, is critical of the move to close the New England facility. "It's very, very disturbing, disappointing, disheartening, shocking," she tells the Globe. "I think it's going to be very, very difficult to imagine that the investigators impacted by this decision will be able to keep up their momentum. We're talking about very talented senior investigators who are at the peak of their careers."