Friday, September 19, 2014

Young Monkeys and Children

UW-Madison vivisector Ned Kalin, and by extension every supporter of his use of infant rhesus monkeys to model early adversity in children, have terminally muddled notions about monkeys and humans.

If you read the public relations rhetoric from the university you'll see all sorts of silly and (probably) knowingly misleading claims. One of the silliest is that putting an infant monkey in an incubator is no different than putting an infant human in an incubator. Imagine putting a young goldfish in an incubator; the poor thing wouldn't last very long.

This might come as news to the university egg-heads, but, like fish, infant humans have different needs than infant rhesus macaques. Infant humans can be set down without causing them serious trauma. This isn't true for infant macaques and most other infant primates.

Infant monkeys either hang on to their mother or die. The psychological need to cling to their mother is a deep and genetically driven response to their natural history. It isn't shared with humans. At any moment, a mother monkey might leap through the forest canopy or rush up a tree. If the infant releases his or her grip, their life is likely over.

Monkeys are active semi-arboreal animals while humans are plodding fully terrestrial animals. There probably isn't a more stressful experience for an infant rhesus monkey than being pulled from his or her mother. Taking a human infant from his or her mother is not at all similar.

The physical pulling of an infant monkey from his or her mother may be the most distressing thing anyone can do to an infant rhesus monkey. After the separation, any other cruelty is just salt in the wound.

Because this particular psychological need and experience isn't shared by humans it is improbable that the resulting changes in a baby monkey's brain chemistry are meaningfully similar to what happens in a child's brain when he or she experiences a completely different kind of adverse event. Claims that there are meaningful similarities are little more than appeals to alchemy. It's just BS.

Kalin's cruelty exacerbates the already profound differences in the neurobiology of human's and rhesus monkeys' brains. After being socially isolated for a month or so, the infants are paired with other infants who were also taken from their mothers and isolated. All the monkeys are males. It is well established that male rhesus monkeys are much more negatively impacted by laboratory conditions and isolation than are females. Infant monkeys need to cling, and when they have only each other, they cling tightly together. Periodically, Kalin pulls them apart and separates them, re-wounding them in a way similar to their initial removal from their mother. While isolated, he frightens them in various ways, none of which would bother a human child of the same age, because humans aren't repetitively traumatized monkeys.

Kalin claims that a human child who is abused and a traumatized infant monkey have similar brain chemistry as a result of their different experiences. I doubt that he believes his own claims. He must chuckle to himself over that absurdity and the willingness of others to look like fools or ignoramuses by defending it. Although he nominally claims to be looking for some new molecular pathway that might be modified in some unknown way by some future drug that will cure or vaccinate children from the occasional bad effects of poor, or neglectful, or abusive parenting, I suspect that he is actually hoping only to find yet another patentable molecular pathway that he can add to his and university's portfolio of similar patents. It really is all about money. His decades of hurting, frightening, and killing young monkeys has never resulted in anything of benefit to human patients. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zippo. It won't this time either.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Doctor Says Maternal Deprivation Research is Unethical Promotion of Mind-Altering Drug Use for All At-Risk Children.

Dr. Francis Collins, Director
National Institutes of Health

Michael Gottesman, M.D.
Deputy Director for Intramural Research

Dear Doctors:

It has recently come to my attention that researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Intramural Research Program are using maternal deprivation to study anxiety and depression in infant macaques. As a pediatric psychiatrist who has treated abused and neglected children, and who is concerned about the welfare of primates used in research as well as the welfare of my patients, I am particularly interested in this issue. Dr. Stephen J. Suomi, leader of the project, offered this explanation to CBS News:

"These findings assist researchers in identifying humans most likely to suffer negative effects in at-risk situations and develop behavioral and drug therapies to improve negative outcomes early in development."

Perhaps more than any other medical specialty, pediatric psychiatry is an art as much as it is a science. As children are constantly growing and developing, their symptoms require frequent reassessment, and their treatment plans must continually be revised and updated. Clinical psychiatrists already know that children respond to psychotropic medications with great variability and unpredictability, and that the side effects of these medications can be debilitating. For these reasons, I believe that it is unethical and inappropriate for any physician to recommend the use of psychotropic medications in children who are "at risk" but have not yet been medically diagnosed with a DSM-5 psychiatric disorder. In his 2002 research paper on childhood predictors of anxiety, Dr. Jerome Kagan concluded with a note of caution:

"It is also important to note that a high-reactive temperament protects the child from engaging in risky behavior -whether drugs, driving at high speeds, or temptation for delinquent, behavior. Thus, the child with a high-reactive temperament has some advantages in our society and parents of such infants might decide not to change their child's behavior when the next set of pharmacological advances permits them that choice."

Identifying children who are at risk for the development of mood and anxiety disorders is a great idea, as is the use of family support and individual counseling as preventive medicine. However, there are many researchers successfully working on these issues with human subjects, utilizing low-risk and non-invasive functional brain scans which make the use of animal models obsolete. And unlike monkey researchers, who have yet to propose a single new treatment for psychiatric patients despite decades of experiments and promises, researchers who study humans can often give us useful information immediately. For example, from a 2011 study of human beings with inhibited temperament:

"Thus, a sustained amygdala response to newly familiar people may be one cause of social anxiety in inhibited individuals. This finding may also have implications for prevention or intervention. For individuals with temperament-based risk for social anxiety, increased exposure to human faces through traditional exposure therapy or through computer-based training may enhance amygdala habituation and reduce social anxiety."

I urge NIH to put an end to all maternal deprivation psychiatric research in primates, as an unnecessary use of animal models as well as an unethical promotion of the use of psychotropic medications in asymptomatic children. I have additionally contacted my representatives in the United States Congress and asked them to investigate why our public tax dollars continue to fund these studies when they do nothing to help human patients.


Sujatha Ramakrishna, M.D

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I just can't resist... war is peace.

The Dane County Board executive committee's decision to indefinitely postpone any decision on the matter of Resolution 275 was covered as a news item in the Isthmus, the paper that finally published an article on Ned Kalin's revival of maternal deprivation and emotional torment as a means to create infant monkey "models" of human depression. You can read the front page article here: Motherless monkeys: UW-Madison to revive controversial primate experiments. Noah Phillips. 07/31/2014.

Doublethink is alive and well in the exalted towers of academia. The executive committee, four present, two absent,was presented with nearly two hours of comment from seventeen people; three people with a financial interest in the use of animals at the university were the only ones who spoke in opposition. The committee then deliberated. Note: indefinitely postponing a decision on an agenda item is intended to kill it. A vote against an item allows it to move out of committee and then be considered by another committee, just as a vote in favor would do. Indefinitely postponing a decision is a way to circumvent further discussion and undermines our democratic system of governance. This is a transcript of the executive committee's entire public deliberation. As one observer noted afterwards, "How very embarrassing for the board."

Chair, Sharon Corrigan: We just have a few minutes, but before we can continue, could we, to discuss it, is there a motion on the resolution? Is there a motion?

Supervisor Mary Kolar: Move to table, based on, uh, we've only heard, so...

Corrigan: The motion would be to postpone indefinitely?

Kolar: [Nods in agreement.] I move to postpone indefinitely.

Corrigan: Is there a second to postpone indefinitely?

Supervisor Dave Ripp: Second.

Corrigan: Is there discussion?

Supervisor Carousel Bayrd who represents the UW Research Park and lives a couple of streets away from Eric Sandgren: [Mumbles something unclear]

Corrigan: If there's no motion it would be the same impact. [Looks around, then back at Supervisor Kolar] Do you want to...

Kolar: Postpone indefinitely.

Corrigan: All those in favor?

All: Aye.

Corrigan: Opposed?

Corrigan: The motion is approved and it is postponed.

Afterwards, speaking to the Isthmus reporter, chief UW vivisection spin-doctor Eric Sandgren said: "Tonight was a victory for public discussion."

They spew this crap with a straight face and utter disdain for the truth. Unbelievable but true. War is peace.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Robert Golden: "... the opinion of the top leaders..."

I am writing here mostly about one claim that was made in various forms by Dr. Robert Golden, dean of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Medicine and Public Health in his comments to the Dane County Executive Committee (which you can watch in its entirety in the video above) regarding Supervisor Al Matano's Resolution calling for the condemnation of the university's renewed use of maternal deprivation to create monkey-models of early adversity-induced depression.

His talk is pretty much a load of crap throughout that seems intended only to soothe and delude his listeners, or else he really is as dull as he appears, but that seems unlikely. See some previous observations of mine regarding some of his previous ridiculous claims here and here. Or, maybe he believes everything he said during the committee's meeting and has simply lost touch with reality.

Dr. Golden said: [Beginning at about 58:22] "More important than my opinion quite frankly though is the opinion of the top leaders, his competitors in the field [which field is that?], who get together and decide that his work is so promising, that they will take money from the limited pot that's available to fund their resource [research] and recommend that it be given to his. His grants have received the very top ratings in the outstanding category from neuroscientists who are competing with him to get their work funded."

"His papers are reviewed by his competitors who feel that they are worthy of publication, because of the progress already being made in the very top journals in the world."

Wow! Kalin's work must be really something!

[Kalin's experiments on monkeys have not led to one single improvement in the care and treatment of people suffering with a mental illness. Golden should point to the improvement(s?) if I'm wrong. He won't. He can't. There is nothing to point to. Golden's talk of "progress" is hyperbole and has no foundation in fact, none whatsoever. Maybe Golden is hoping for a Chancellor's position somewhere and he feels a need to demonstrate his facts-be-damned allegiance to his current institution. Institutions like the UW carefully vet the people they hire as spokespersons, and no quibbling over cruelty and suffering is wanted. But all this isn't what I am writing about here.]

Ned Kalin's longest running grant is DEVELOPMENT AND REGULATION OF EMOTION IN PRIMATES. [Grant: 5 R01MH046729 20.] It's been continuously funded for 20 years. In 2014 it was allotted another $629,176. [Direct Costs: $425,588. Indirect Costs: $203,588. Indirect costs are the part of the grant that the scientist's institution is able to deposit into its general fund. Legal skimming.]

Most NIH-funded research projects, like the this one, are approved by committees sponsored and organized by the Center for Scientific Review, a part of the NIH. The CSR creates peer review groups or study sections charged with evaluating grant applications and deciding which should be funded. Kalin's project was approved by the PMDA study section.

Robert Golden says that Ned Kalin's research must be important because the people who approved it are the "top leaders," the cream-of-the-crop of the scientists around the country.

But the system doesn't work. It is inbred and circular. The members of the committees that evaluate experiments using animals are by and large made up of scientists who also use animals in stupid, cruel, dead-end experiments like Kalin's. These committees aren't made up of the "top leaders" working on human health and basic human biology, they are made up of vivisectors doing work that has little merit. Of course they endorse research methods like their own; and as long as the system is as it is, self-interest will continue to maintain the status quo.

Let's look at the members of the PMDA study section, the committee that has decided to keep giving Dr. Kalin lavish handouts of the public's tax dollars. Dr. Golden's characterization of these scientists and their work is dead wrong. Only two of these fourteen scientists are studying human biology, the work of the twelve vivisectors has next to no chance of leading to better patient care or the prevention of disease. Dr. Golden's estimation of what is and isn't good science seems to be colored by the money flowing into his institution and sustaining ridiculous and terribly cruel experiments on animals.

Here's the roster of the "top leaders" in Kalin's "field." Golden must mean dead-end and horribly cruel when he claims Kalin's work is part of a particular field of study.

Center For Scientific Review

(Terms end 6/30 of the designated year)


NEW YORK, NY 10029

One of Dr. Hurd's currently funded projects is titled NEURODEVELOPMENTAL EFFECTS OF CANNABIS AND ITS EPIGENETIC REGULATION. [Project Number: 5R01DA030359-04. $409,073. Direct Costs: $241,916. Indirect Costs: $167,157.]

She writes: "Importantly, PENK and D2 gene expression impairments persisted into adulthood following either prenatal or adolescent THC exposure and the animals [rats] exhibited increased heroin self-administration and inhibitory control deficit, phenotypes predictive of drug addiction vulnerability.... In this project, we propose to study chromatin modification at specific regulatory regions of the PENK and D2 genes in the ventral striatum of adult rats with developmental THC exposure."

Dr. Robert Golden says this is the best of the best publicly funded research going on right now. Wow.

NEW YORK, NY 10065

This is from Dr. Angulo's lab's webpage "... We study the mechanism by which neuropeptides restore homeostasis in the neostriatum after exposure to psychostimulants at behavioral, neurochemical, and molecular levels. In addition, histological methods are used to study the damaging effects of the pscyhostimulant methamphetamine and to demonstrate that some neuropeptides protect neurons from the damaging impact of this commonly abused drug. We utilize both Sprague-Dawley rats and mice as model systems....".

Top notch.


As she describes it here, Dr. Berretta's description of her work seems to be the real McCoy. This looks like the sort of research that may be getting bumped by projects like Kalin's.


Dr. Dwivedi is also studying humans.

IRVINE, CA 92697

One of Dr. Gall's currently funded projects is BDNF AND THE RESTORATION OF SYNAPTIC PLASTICITY IN FRAGILE X AND AUTISM. [Total Funding: $453,289. Direct Costs: $377,278. Indirect Costs: $76,011.]

Dr. Gall writes: "... Finally, Aim 5 will test if TBS-induced LTP, and steps in actin signaling that are perturbed in the Fmr1-KO mice, are disturbed in other animal models of autistic phenotype and corrected by BDNF: this work will evaluate effects in the BTBR T[+] tf/J mice and Tuberous Sclerosis complex model mice. Together these studies will identify mechanisms underlying deficits in LTP stabilization in FXS model mice, determine if the same processes are disturbed in other mouse strains with features of autism, and test if increasing endogenous BDNF is an effective therapeutic strategy for correcting impairments in the cellular mechanisms of learning and memory in models of cognitive conditions associated with autism."

I wonder whether she has heard the idea that limiting the number variables is a good idea in the conduct of most experimental science? Top notch.


Dr. Jentsch is a central element in this video. He's the odd, very loud fellow who appears to be pregnant. I've written a bit about his cruelties in the past. Just stick his last name in the little search window above. I suspect that Dr. Golden got this right. Jentsch (rhymes with Grinch) is definitely one of the leaders od this so-called field. Yes sir, cream-of-the-crop, top notch all the way.


Dr. June's most recent grant, funded last in 2013, is titled: EFFICACY OF NOVEL TRIPLE UPTAKE INHIBITORS IN TREATING ALCOHOLISM AND DEPRESSION. [Total Funding: $311,069. Direct Costs: $210,182. Indirect Costs: $100,887.]

Dr. June writes: "The first aim will test the hypothesis that orally-administered TUIs can effectively attenuate excessive alcohol drinking in the binge and prolonged repeated alcohol deprivation [PRAD] models using the alcohol-preferring [P] rat. Initial studies will employ DOV 102,677 [our lead compound], recently shown to reduce limited alcohol responding for six days after a single administration. It is hypothesized that acute treatment for binge drinking, and chronic treatment for PRAD drinking, will selectively reduce intake in both models." (Brackets in original.)

Binge drinking in rats... I'm sure he's on the cusp of a major breakthrough.

NEW YORK, NY 10021

Dr. Lee writes a recent paper: "Relatively little is known about neurobiological changes attributable to early-life stressors (e.g., orphanage rearing), even though they have been associated with a heightened risk for later psychopathology. Human neuroimaging and animal studies provide complementary insights into the neural basis of problem behaviors following stress, but too often are limited by dissimilar experimental designs. The current mouse study manipulates the type and timing of a stressor to parallel the early-life stress experience of orphanage rearing, controlling for genetic and environmental confounds inherent in human studies. The results provide evidence of both early and persistent alterations in amygdala circuitry and function following early-life stress."

Top notch. His and Kalin's work are not so different.

One of Dr. Lewis's currently funded projects is titled: CANNABIS AND ADOLESCENT BRAIN DEVELOPMENT [Total Funding: $550,394. Direct Costs: $365,178. Indirect Costs: $185,216.]

Dr. Lewis writes in his grant abstract: "To test this hypothesis we will determine the postnatal developmental changes in the expression of CB1R mRNA and protein (Aim 1), the innervation patterns of CB1R-IR axons (Aim 2), and the electrophysiological consequences of CB1R activation (Aim 3) in the macaque monkey DLFPC, a model system that uniquely recapitulates the circuitry and protracted development of the human DLPFC. We will also assess the impact of chronic cannabis exposure during adolescence on working memory performance in monkeys (Aim 4) and on the maturation of perisomatic inputs to DLPFC pyramidal neurons (Aim 5). Thus, these studies will provide an explicit test of the biological events and mechanisms that make the adolescent brain especially vulnerable to the effects of cannabis."

Monkeys and marijuana. Top notch no doubt. What real medical research was dumped in lieu of this cruel silliness?


One of Dr. Middleton's projects is in its 29th year of continuous funding. It is titled: FETAL ALCOHOL SYNDROME. [Grant: 5R01AA006916-29. Total Funding: $353,190. Direct Costs: $221,436. Indirect Costs: $131,754.]

Dr. Middleton writes: "Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is common (affects ~2% of all live births) and is a major cause of mental dysfunction.... Three complementary aims will be addressed using p53 deficient mice and cells. ... Vulnerability of cortical neurons to ethanol will be addressed in long- and short-term in vivo studies. Long-term studies will determine the ethanol-induced loss of neurons in cortical layers occurring in the deficient mice."

Top notch all the way.


In a fairly recent paper [Physical activity-associated gene expression signature in nonhuman primate motor cortex. Mitchell AC, Leak RK, Garbett K, Zigmond MJ, Cameron JL, Mirnics K. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2012.] Dr. Mirnics et al write: "The Animal Care and Use Committee of the Oregon National Primate Research Center reviewed and approved all experiments. Fourteen adult female ovariectomized Rhesus monkeys (M. mulatta) with various levels of spontaneous activity were used in this study with care methods previously published (1,2,24). Their activity levels were measured in counts/ day with an accelerometer throughout the study and ranged from 46,378 to 897,948 activity counts per day. These monkeys also participated in a previous weight loss study (1). Monkeys were deeply anesthetized with ketamine/pentobarbital, quickly decapitated, and the entire brain was removed from the skull....".


In one paper reporting on work supported by Dr. Penzes's grant: ROLE OF KALIRIN SIGNALING IN SYNAPTIC PLASTICITY. [5R01MH071316-10. Total Funding: $375,369. Direct Costs: $247,500. Indirect Costs: $127,869.] Dr. Pezes et all write: "Because we have previously shown that complete absence of the KALRN gene leads to significant cortical deficits and behavioral impairments in young mice, we reasoned that analysis of spine densities in different brain regions in both heterozygote and knockout adult mice and their correlation with cognitive phenotypes, might reveal important relationships between spine plasticity and behavior."


One of Dr. Plentnikov's currently funded projects is DISC-1 IN NEURON-ASTROCYTE INTERACTIONS IN NEURODEVELOPMENT. [5R01MH083728-05. Total Funding: $405,000. Direct Costs: $250,000. Indirect Costs: $155,000.]

Dr. Plentnikov is just another mouse vivisector.


"... The purpose of this study, therefore, was to assess the functional effects of re-exposure to cocaine in nonhuman primates after the discontinuation of cocaine self-administration for 30 or 90 days, .... Rhesus monkeys self-administered cocaine (fixed interval 3-min schedule, 30 infusions per session, 0.3 mg/kg/infusion) for 100 sessions followed by 30 (n=4) or 90 days (n=3) during which experimental sessions were not conducted. Food-reinforced control animals (n=5) underwent identical schedules of reinforcement. Animals were then re-exposed to cocaine or food for one final session ... Compared to controls, re-exposure to cocaine after 30 or 90 day drug-free periods resulted in lower rates of glucose utilization in ventral and dorsal striatum, prefrontal and temporal cortex, limbic system, thalamus, and midbrain." Functional consequences of cocaine re-exposure after discontinuation of cocaine availability. Beveridge TJ, Smith HR, Nader SH, Nader MA, Porrino LJ. Neuropharmacology. 2014.

These are the leaders? Just imagine what the average scientists in this field are up to. Dr. Golden needs his head and ethics examined.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dear Dane County Board Supervisors. Re: Resolution 275

August 31, 2014

Dear Dane County Board Supervisors,

I am writing in reply to a letter which was sent to you by the University of Wisconsin-Madison urging you not to support Resolution 275 introduced by Supervisor Matano. I hope you will find the following points helpful in coming to your decision.

The university begins its argument by presenting a false and misleading characterization of the specific research program addressed in Mr. Matano's resolution. They say that the monkeys taken from their mothers will be raised by human "caregivers." But the monkeys will not be held, comforted, or allowed to form normal emotional bonds with these so-called caregivers. They will be provided food and water by them and their isolation units will be cleaned by them, but such limited hands-off care would be judged abuse if human children were being raised in the same way.

The university says that once the infants are able to feed themselves, that they will be in the company of "other young monkeys." But they will simply be placed in a small cage with one other infant of the same age similarly deprived of psychologically important contact comfort from their mother or other nurturing caregiver.

The university falsely claims that this isolation and pair-housing is no different from what happens in zoos when infants are rejected by their mothers or even on a typical Wisconsin dairy. But even zoos try to provide a semblance of contact care and social interaction with caregivers; zoos try to ameliorate the impact of the loss of an infant's mother, the university's plan is to exacerbate that impact.

The university goes so far as to say that even infant humans are similarly separated from their mothers in neonatal intensive care units. If there is much similarity between the care provided to the infant monkeys being taken from their mothers and the level of care provided to human infants at the UW Hospital, then a thorough investigation is needed immediately because such isolation and social neglect would be a clear case of criminal child abuse.

The university isn't being honest with you.

A paper cited by Ned Kalin, the lead scientist in the research that is causing so much concern, explains that increased crying, decreased environmental exploration, and increased huddling, and lying-down are common symptoms of the despair typically seen after maternal separation in infant monkeys.
The impact of early-life stress, frequently induced by maternal separation during infancy has been extensively studied in non-human primates. Thus, rhesus macaques that grew up either alone or with peers only show several signs of behavioral despair, i.e. decreased locomotion, environmental exploration and play, disturbed sleep, decreased, or sometimes increased, food intake. These behavioral changes resemble many of the cardinal symptoms of human depression. (The role of corticotropin-releasing factor in depression and anxiety disorders. J Endocrinol. 1999. See below for one reason behind Ned Kalin's and the university's keen interest in corticotropin-releasing factor.)

The well-documented severe psychological insults of maternal deprivation (the method that the university falsely equates to the way they care for children in neonatal intensive care units) and peer-rearing are exactly why they are being employed in this project.

This is the third time I am aware of that the university has resorted to what seems to be the intentional misleading of local government officials about its actions or intent regarding the use of monkeys in its labs.

The first time was their eight years of repeatedly reporting to zoo officials that the monkeys owned by the university and housed at the zoo were exempt from being used in harmful experiments. Leaked documents revealed that their repeatedly written reaffirmations of the policy were never honored and that while claiming otherwise, the university was selling monkeys from the zoo to labs around the country and killing them in their own labs. The university's maneuvering successfully derailed the County Board's efforts to safeguard the remaining animals.

The second case was the university's response to Supervisor Matano's effort to establish a citizens' advisory committee to examine the question of whether or not the university's use of monkeys is ethical. In what seems to have been given as a promise to County Board Chair Scott McDonald and others on the County Board in exchange for killing the proposal, the university said that it would institute a public discussion about the use of animals in its labs. But that promise was never substantively fulfilled; the university did begin having speakers from around the country come in to talk about animals in society generally, but very little about the university's own use of animals was addressed, and essentially none of the specific details it said would be, were. Nearly everyone involved in or familiar with the so-called forums has admitted they have failed to meet the university's promise.

Now, yet again, the university has chosen to mislead the Board. Its characterization of what will be done to the infant monkeys and the effects those procedures will have on them is far from the truth. The university seems to think that the County Board is made up of enough people who are either good UW soldiers or awed by its authority, that it need not address the factual details of the project under discussion.

The university appeals to the possible results of Ned Kalin's project as a justification for the short abused life these infant monkeys will endure. But Kalin's prior three-and-a-half decades of identifying fearful young monkeys, frightening them, damaging their brains, and then killing them and analyzing the results have led to no discernible benefit for people suffering from depression. There is no reason that the current experiments will fare any better.

One goal of Ned Kalin's work not mentioned by the university is his identification of patentable gene sequences thought by him to be implicated in a greater susceptibility to the development of clinical depression. Kalin is the founder and principal owner of a company, Promoter Neuroscience, which is "focused on developing tools and finding drugs that affect expression of genes in the CRH family." (CHR is shorthand for the brain chemical: corticotropin-releasing factor.) He and WARF hold at least four patents on these gene sequences identified by Kalin in his invasive rat and monkey brain experiments.

It looks as though he and his company are focused on patenting gene sequences that they believe might one day be part of a genetic pathway affected by a drug used for the treatment of depression, and thus could be leveraged into a share of potential profit should someone invent an antidepressant that acted through those promoter gene sequences.

The university continues to mislead the Board with its claim that the study was approved only after rigorous scrutiny. This study was the subject of more scrutiny by university oversight committees that any previous project because it is an affront to any notion of the humane use of animals. But when changes were demanded, the resulting rewrite was approved by only two unnamed people, both of whom are likely to have supported the project earlier or who are also using animals in their own research. That's the opposite of rigor.

The university closes its argument by claiming wildly that if the County Board condemns Kalin's project that it could lead to an end of all basic research and that progress against disease would slow drastically. But a growing body of respected scientific evidence suggests that the opposite may be more likely.

Over the past decade or two, researchers have undertaken a number of very large meta-analyses of the results of animal-based models of human disease and illness, and the results have not been encouraging to the industry. Overwhelmingly, these very large analyses have found that the results from experiments on animals are not translating into treatments for humans. Proffered explanations for this sweeping failure have included the less than rigorous design of the projects and the underlying genetic differences that plague cross-species applications. But no matter the reason, the failure of animal models to productively mimic human biology is the subject of much and increased scientific discussion.

See for instance:

Comparison of treatment effects between animal experiments and clinical trials: systematic review. Perel P, Roberts I, Sena E, Wheble P, Briscoe C, Sandercock P, Macleod M, Mignini LE, Jayaram P, Khan KS. BMJ. 2007.

Where Are the Cures? Sharon Begley. Newsweek. 2008.

Translation of Research Evidence From Animals to Humans. Daniel G. Hackam, Donald A. Redelmeier, 2006, JAMA.

Why Most Published Research Findings Are False. John P. A. Ioannidis. PLoS Med. 2005.

Where is the evidence that animal research benefits humans? Pound P, Ebrahim S, Sandercock P, Bracken MB, Roberts I. BMJ. 2004.

Does animal experimentation inform human healthcare? Observations from a systematic review of international animal experiments on fluid resuscitation. Roberts I, Kwan I, Evans P & Haig S. BMJ 2002.

Evolution and translation of research findings: from bench to where? Ioannidis JP. PLoS Clin Trials. 2006.

Survey of the quality of experimental design, statistical analysis and reporting of research using animals. Kilkenny C, Parsons N, Kadyszewski E, Festing MF, Cuthill IC, Fry D, Hutton J, Altman DG. PLoS One. 2009.

The university has shown itself unwilling to engage is substantive dialog regarding its use of animals. It has misled the Dane Count Board in the past. It has destroyed public records concerning its use of monkeys to keep them out of the public eye. It builds barriers to public scrutiny of its operations. It worries now that if the Dane County Board condemns Ned Kalin's use of maternal deprivation, that it may lead to more questioning from the public.

Undoubtedly, County Board Supervisors are being lobbied by people on one or the other side of this issue. I imagine that they generally fall into one of two camps: people who are concerned for the monkeys and are outraged at having to pay for these cruel dead-end experiments, and people who have a professional or financial interest in basic research using animals. I do think it is that simple.

I hope you will not let yourself and the County Board be again convinced to shelter the university and to hold them harmless for their past lies, manipulations, and cover-ups. Taken as a single instance of the research underway at the university, Kalin's maternal deprivation project warrants great condemnation.


Rick Bogle
5133 Maher Ave.
Madison, WI 53716
Dane County, District 24

Sunday, August 17, 2014

University experts stumble over facts

Cue the spin doctors.

True to form, UW-Madison's experts responded with a cacophony of either ignorant or calculated false claims in response to the recent article in Madison's somewhat progressive weekly, the Isthmus.

Where to start? Well, let's see...

First, there was yet another paroxysm of confusion from Dr. Robert N. Golden. I replied earlier to his first error-laden letter to the editor defending the torture of young monkeys by his his colleague Dr. Ned Kalin after Dr. Murry Cohen criticized Dr. Kalin's methods(all three of the doctors are psychiatrists)in a letter to the editor in the Capital Times (Monkey studies vital...), another of Madison's progressive weeklies, The Capital Times. [Wisconsin is the birthplace of the Progressive Party, in case you didn't know.]

In his newest attempt to defend the indefensible, he criticizes the Isthmus for "promulgating the animal activists' claims" that the university is "reviving" Harry Harlow's work. He put quotation marks around the word for some odd reason. He must not have reviewed the minutes of the committee meetings when the project was discussed. Some decidedly not-animal-rights-activists university staff also see it that way.

He must not have reviewed the information at

No one has claimed that Kalin is isolating monkeys for as long as Harlow and his students did, or that they are being placed in the vertical chamber, but Golden is uninformed apparently about Harlow's work. The reason Kalin is isolating infant monkeys at birth, isolating them for month or so, pairing them with a similarly traumatized infant, and frightening them with novel experiences is that doing so was shown by Harlow to cause behavioral changes that he and visitors to his lab thought to be evidence of severe depression. Golden apparently hasn't spend much time reviewing Harlow's many publications.

Golden says that Kalin is "following the current state-of-the-art guidelines for the ethical use of of nonhuman primates in research." He's right. Sort of. In a misleading way. First, there aren't any enforceable ethical guidelines, if you use the term to mean what most people commonly believe the word to mean. There are some enforceable rules that regulate to some degree the care and use of primates and other animals, but only one of the rules really matters and can get you into trouble if you break it, that's the one that says researchers have to have permission from their institutional animal care and use committee before proceeding. As long as they have permission, they can do anything to an animal. There is no regulatory limit on what can be done to an animal with permission. That's the state of the art. Moreover, the researcher needs only to get the permission of those who like themselves are using animals and who know that their colleagues may be on the committee when their own project comes up for re-approval. That's the state-of-the-art ethics governing the oversight of experiments on primates today at the university and almost everywhere else in the U.S.

Golden says that Kalin is focusing "on key clinical issues in the treatment of children who have been exposed to early life stresses, including neglect."

This is additionally misleading. Kalin's project design does a poor job at emulating early life stresses of human children. Essentially no children are raised alone and then put in a box with another infant, kept there for a year (actually, because of the differences in maturity rates, you'd have to keep the humans in the box for about three years to approximate the same degree of normal development), and occasionally frightened.

Abuse and neglect are frequently mentioned in tandem. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), (42 U.S.C.A. §5106g), as amended and reauthorized by the CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010 spells out legal definitions of these terms. A helpful fact sheet on this law is available on line from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Almost nothing about Kalin's project is at all similar to the real life experiences of an abused and/or neglected child. Claims to the contrary must be based on a blunted notion of the complexities of genetics, neurobiology, and chemistry.

Golden repeats the craziest whackiest claim in Kalin's project, that the goal is to: "identify new molecular targets for preventing the emergence of psychiatric illness in children who are exposed to early life trauma."

Think about this. Six year-old Johnny is removed from his home after authorities discover that he wasn't being adequately fed, was sometimes locked in his room for days at a time, and was shaken and slapped frequently. A pediatric psychiatrist examines him and notes that he is underweight, very withdrawn, bites his nails, bites his arms, and still sucks his thumb. No problem. Johnny can simply get an injection of some magic serum or maybe take a couple of pills every day for a few years, and there won't be any serious lasting psychological consequence of his early adversity. Heck, maybe criminals can take it and not have to feel any guilt after their misdeeds. Maybe the military will want to vaccinate soldiers so they won't be bothered by the memories of killing people. Goofy indeed.

Golden says the project was approved only after it was approved by two committees, but again he's either confused or being intentionally misleading. The article reported that most of the members of the College of Letters and Sciences Animal Care and Use Committee were excluded from participating in the final decision. Two people were given the task of making the final approval. I'll wager that both of them experiment on animals themselves.

Eric Sandgren, the university's head vivisector also had a letter printed and tries to change what he told the reporter, but since he pretty much always says whatever seems to sound good at the time, who cares?

There was a sad little letter from from a student named Parker David Tenpas who works at the primate center. Sad and little in the sense that he imagines he has a clue. It's no wonder. He writes, "My lab is focused on primate well-being, and we study how these animals interact with toys, television, music, each other and their environment. We care about these animals." Right. I'm sure he tells himself that he cares. In his CV, a public document on his public website (see above), he says that his academic(?) mentor is the creepy Peter J. Pierre who has nothing in his CV that suggests he ought to be the Behavioral Management Unit Head. (His CV.) Parker also has the fringe extremist vivisection group Speaking of Research on his short list of important links which makes sense because of Pierre's close connection to the group's not-so-interested-in-speaking darling, Allyson Bennett. The saddest part of his letter was his blind and obedient Sieg heil: "Many perspectives are needed to get the full picture, but as long as irrelevant ones are perpetuated, scientific progress and solutions will be stalled." Apparently, he feels that concerns about suffering and cruelty are irrelevant. He's definitely primate center material.

Last but certainly not least in its errors was the letter from rat and mouse vivisector Craig Berridge. Berridge is clearly confused. He writes, "... reference is made to earlier work of Dr. Kalin's in which monkeys' amygdalae were 'damaged with acid.' instead, the amygdalae were 'lesioned'/damaged using microinfusions of a specific amino acid to overstimulate glutamate receptors using modern neurosurgical techniques." He sounds so scientific and knowledgeable doesn't he? How could the average reader know that he is full of crap?

In fact, in past experiments, Kalin's methods are crude at best. In one study he sent images of monkeys' acid-damaged brains to a researcher at UC-Davis and had him circle the area that he imagined was the amygdala. That's not very high tech. Moreover, Berridge is wrong about Kalin's use of acid to damage the monkeys' brains. He cites his use of the neurotoxin ibotenic acid in his publications. I don't know whether Berridge is just ignorant and opining about things he doesn't know about or rather is just following in Eric Sandgren's footsteps and making shit up as he goes. Either way, he isn't a reliable source of information about the university's use of animals.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A New UW-Madison Vivisection Spokesperson

You may have read this by now: Motherless monkeys: UW-Madison to revive controversial primate experiments
Researchers will deprive infants of maternal contact to study anxiety and depression
Noah Phillips. Isthmus 07/31/2014.

I've debunked Kalin's claims here: A Response to Ned Kalin.

This is a response to the sidebar that accompanied the main article: UW-Madison animal research oversight committees strive for consensus.

The title belies the twin facts that there wasn't a consensus among the members of the oversight committee on Kalin's maternal deprivation project, and that the decision to let him proceed was made by only two unnamed people, who I will wager were both vivisectors, demolishing the worn and repeated contention that members of the public are involved in the decision-making. What a joke.

Mostly though, I am writing because a new University voice in support of hurting and killing animals for hire has emerged from within the cloistered animal labs: Craig Berridge. The sidebar's author paraphrases Berridge and says that he "is comfortable with the scrutiny given animal research on campus."

Berridge is quoted saying that: "Animal research is a heavily regulated and overseen process... I think everyone who does animal research feels they're balancing the need for and desire to alleviate human suffering and to minimize animal suffering."

Animal research isn't heavily regulated. See my essay The Ethics Underpinning Oversight. I suspect that at least some of the members of his lab believe that the things they are doing to rats might in someway alleviate human suffering, but in any other setting with similarly remote odds of success, they would probably say that the odds are so slight that the costs could not be justified. And the odds of alleviating human suffering as a result of what they are doing to the rats are vanishingly small. For one of the many examples of the failure of using other animals to model human biology see: "Mice Fall Short as Test Subjects for Humans’ Deadly Ills." Gina Kolata. New York Times. February 11, 2013.

Anyway, it isn't any surprise that someone riding the public funding gravy train to wealth thinks that oversight of what they are doing is adequate. Here's a passage for one of Berrige's papers that gives some idea of just what it is that we are paying him to do:
When exposed to an inescapable stressor, animals may engage in a limited set of “coping” behaviors, often involving oral behavior such as chewing, which act to attenuate certain components of the stress response (Berridge et al., 2002). For example, mice and rats exposed to an inescapable, novel, and brightly lit environment (novelty-stress) chew inedible material (wood, foil, etc) preferentially over highly palatable food (Berridge et al., 1999; Hennessy and Foy, 1987). Under these conditions, chewing suppresses the glucocorticoid stress response (Hennessy and Foy, 1987). Moreover, chewing also attenuates stress-related DA utilization preferentially within the mPFC, having no noticeable effect on stressor-induced increases in DA utilization outside this region (Berridge et al., 1999). Interestingly, chewing-induced suppression of [medial prefrontal cortex dopamine] utilization is largely confined to the right hemisphere (Berridge et al., 1999).

It probably cost us millions in tax dollars to find that out. That's why I go to work. You too?

But, that passage doesn't give a us much insight into the suffering he and his staff cause the rats they consume. Before reading any further, just in case you have a false impression of who rats are, you ought to check out these links. Here, here, and here.

This is from Stress-induced impairment of a working memory task: role of spiking rate and spiking history predicted discharge. Devilbiss DM, Jenison RL, Berridge CW. PLoS Comput Biol. 2012:
Materials and Methods
Five male Sprague-Dawley rats (300–400 g; Charles River, Wilmington MA) were individually housed in an enriched environment (Nylabone® chews) on a 13/11-hour light-dark cycle (light 0600-2000). Animals were maintained on a restricted feeding schedule (15–20 g of standard chow available immediately after training/testing). All procedures were in accordance with NIH guidelines and were approved by the University of Wisconsin Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

If you watched the videos linked to above, you ought to have noticed that Berridge and people who care about the rats have a much different idea of what "enrichment" means. A Nylabone is sparse enrichment. Devilbiss, Jenison, and Berridge continue:
Animals were trained in a T-maze delayed-non-match to position task as described previously .... Initial training was complete when animals entered the T-maze arm opposite from the last one visited for food rewards (chocolate chips 1.6 gm) delivered by the experimenter's hand with 90% accuracy on 10 trials (0 seconds delay, 1 session/day). Animals were then surgically implanted with recording electrodes and returned to ad lib feeding for the duration of recovery (7–10 days). Following recovery, training continued until animals performed two sessions of 41 trials at criterion of 90–100% correct for 2 consecutive days.... During training sessions, animals were tethered to a dummy wire harness of identical weight and flexibly as the harness used for electrophysiological recording on testing days. After acclimation to the tether, animals showed no differences in maze performance or overt behaviors from prior reports....

On the morning of testing, an animal was placed in his home cage, on top of the T-maze, 2 hours before the first session began to allow the animal to habituate to the tether and the recording arena and allowed the experimenter to discriminate neural activity. Although animals had access to water and were able to freely move about their cage, during this period animals predominantly slept.... During the second testing session of the day, presentation of the white noise (93 db) stressor was begun immediately prior to testing and presented continuously throughout the duration of the 41 trials. White noise as stressor has been shown previously to impair PFC-dependent functions in rats, monkeys, and humans and activate the stress-related circuits within the brain as well as the hypothalamic-pituitary axis of rats. Testing with noise stress was permitted at most 1/week.

93 db is like the sound of a jackhammer 50 feet away, or the sound of a lawnmower when you are standing next to it.

This is their description of the surgery (Can you imagine a psychologist being permitted to perform brain surgery on a human?):
Under halothane anesthesia (Halocarbon Laboratories, River Edge, New Jersey; 1%–4% in air), animals were implanted bilaterally with linear electrode arrays (n = 8 electrodes/array; 250 µm separation; SB103, NB Labs, Dennison, TX) targeting layer V of the prelimbic region of the PFC (plPFC) as previously described. Electrode arrays contained 50 µm stainless-steel electrodes orientated in a rostral-caudal direction. Electrodes were attached to skull screws (MX-0080-16B-C, Small Parts, Inc.) with dental acrylic (Plastics One, Roanoke, Virginia), the wound was closed with wound clips (9 mm Autoclip; BD Diagnostic Systems, Sparks, Maryland), and animals were allowed to recover for 7–10 days.

There is no mention of post-surgical analgesia. Humans describe pain after a craniotomy -- the surgical removal of part of the skull to expose the brain -- as being moderate to severe. Research has found that many patients do not receive adequate treatment for their pain. [Perioperative pain management in the neurosurgical patient. Ortiz-Cardona J1, Bendo AA. Anesthesiol Clin. 2007.] But hey, I'm sure an psychologist doing brain surgery on rats does a better job treating his rats' pain than do trained brain surgeons caring for their human patients.
On testing days, animals were brought into the T-maze testing room and tethered to the Multichannel electrophysiology Acquisition Processor. During the 2 hour habituation period, ... animals remained tethered to recording hardware and the quality of the discrimination was monitored throughout the remainder of the day.

[You can watch a video here.]

And then they were killed and their brains analyzed.

I though too that it was interesting that Berridge defended the oversight system that sanctioned Kalin's experiments on the effects of stress -- in many ways not too different from Berridge's, and yet Kalin says that he simply must use monkeys because rats' brains are so different from humans'. Inconsistency is probably common in situations where people are indirectly paid to ignore it.

I can't conclude this short missive without at least mentioning the deep thinking exhibited in the article by the University's head vivisector, Eric Sandgren who says all is well with the oversight system in place; after all, 9 of the 12,000 animal research protocols submitted since 2004, have been denied outright. And who but an extremist like me would see anything but success in the fact that the University has approved all but .075% of its vivisectors' proposed experiments?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Animal abuse and infectious disease oversight failures have common roots.

CDC scientists' adherence to biosafety protocols and the agency's oversight of research underway in its own labs have been subjects of concern recently voiced by infectious disease and public health researchers and members of Congress.

Officials at the University of Wisconsin, Madison say they know their labs are safe because they are inspected by the CDC. That appeal to authority suggests an absence of independent thought -- not a good trait in people charged with protecting the public from ridiculously dangerous germs.

The university has its own Institutional Biosafety Committee, the IBC, and a biosafety task force, though evidence of the latter hasn't been easy to fine. It's probably not a real thing. University spokespersons say that emergency plans are in place, and that they will spring into action in the unlikely event of a release of an insanely dangerous virus. After the fact. Like the response to the man infected with Ebola who was allowed to get on a plane and disembark in the most densely populated city in Africa.

The biosafety problems at the CDC's and UW-Madison's infectious disease labs have close and informative parallels with the problems associated with the use of animals in laboratories across the U.S.

The agency responsible for oversight of the use of animals in most situations is APHIS, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, a part of the USDA. APHIS oversight of animal welfare -- in both laboratory settings and commercial dog breeding -- has been found to be woefully ineffective by the USDA's Office of the Inspector General. The NIH also has a nominal oversight role. It's Office of Laboratory Welfare (OLAW) relies on universities self-reporting their regulatory deviations, a recipe for slipshod operations, limited reporting, and frequent violations. On-site inspections by OLAW are rare. University spokespersons say that their Animal Care and Use Committees, or ACUCs, guarantee that the animals under their control are cared for and used humanely. There is an emergency plan in place to deal with some animal health problems.

It is the nature of much research at the university that some projects are subject to both biosafety and animal use oversight. Theoretically, a project like Yoshihiro Kawaoka's influenza experiments using ferrets are subject to oversight by the NIH, CDC, USDA, and the IBC and an ACUC. If pushed, the university could probably name even a few more nominal watchdogs.

That sounds great. Except that the NIH acted only after UW-Madison researcher Gary Splitter's students had violated it's Major Action rules.
Under the NIH Guidelines, the term "Major Action" means that NIH Director approval is required. Only one type of experiment requires NIH Director approval -- the deliberate transfer of a drug resistance trait to a microorganism when such resistance could compromise the ability to control the disease agent in humans, veterinary medicine, or agriculture (see Section III-A-l-a of the NIH Guidelines).
The CDC's culture of disregard for biosafety rules and its multiple mistakes and accidents have been the subject of much recent reporting. The CDC's animal care problems are less well known but no less troubling, at least to people like me who think that hurting animals ought to be recognized as a serious crime. The USDA promotes the use and consumption of animals; its problems enforcing the minimal restraints on abusive practices in labs shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.

The university's IBC and its ACUCs aren't genuine oversight bodies. Their very practiced role is to make sure that the minimal federal rules are more or less adhered to. The members of the committees are participants in the activities they are charged with overseeing. This is one of the systemic problems identified as one of the causes of the CDC's dangerous mistakes and accidents: insiders being relied on to regulate themselves. That hasn't worked well for prisons or nursing homes either. One university biosafety committee member has said that the IBC is more of an advocate of the research than it is a critical evaluator of the safety procedures. Cheerleading for the very thing the oversight committee members are supposed to be evaluating is rife within the ACUCs membership and the senior officials charged with oversight duties.

The misleadingly named little group "Speaking of Research" is an extremist U.S. spin-off of a pro-animal experimentation fringe group founded by a fifteen year-old boy in England. The British group aptly called themselves "Pro-Test." To get a feel for who these people are, watch this video. UCLA monkey vivisector Dario Ringatch, the principal behind the group, can be seen a few times on the edge of screen, but he stays pretty much out of sight. His odd and loud pot-bellied side-kick, monkey vivisector David Jentsch, is one of the video's main characters. I mention this only because it may inform your response to me telling you that Eric Sandgren, director of the of UW-Madison's Research Animal Resource Center (RARC) and go-to spokesperson for issues involving the university's use of animals, is also a quasi-(full dues paying?) member of the group. He has contributed to the group's website and was instrumental in bringing Ringatch to UW-Madison to publicly spew his elitist and deranged world view.

Oversight of animal use at the university is strongly influenced, maybe even somewhat controlled by Eric Sandgren. He is a callous liar.

That's harsh. To be fair, it's not entirely Eric Sandgren's fault that he participates in, promotes, lies about, and defends cruel experiments on animals. It wasn't entirely Adolph Eichmann's fault that he kept the trains running smoothly. (My finger is worn out from pointing to the body of research demonstrating that people will and do generally behave immorally when immersed in a system that supports their poor behavior.)

One of the problems at the CDC labs is that the inevitable, really, genuinely inevitable, consequences of trying to be being careful, or doing much of anything else repetitively and routinely over time, is that we -- you and me, human beings in general, probably all of us with minds -- eventually become enured to the hypothetical risks, become complacent, and make mistakes. This is inevitable. It is a fact of life and of who we are. Here's an interesting study of laboratory accidents and a self-reported explanation for why so many accidents occur.

In both cases -- the failures of the oversight of infectious disease research and the failures of the oversight of the use of animals -- the regulatory problems that plague the systems have quite a few common causes.

There is though, an important difference between the oversight failures involving animal care and use and the oversight failures involving infectious disease research.

In the case of infectious disease research, biased perspectives lead only to an increased risk of billions of humans and other animals being killed in short order.

In the case of animal care and use, oversight failures and biased perspectives lead absolutely and immediately to animals being hurt and killed.

The infectious disease oversight failures have the potential of leading to the deaths of billions of people and animals, but that's a only a potential cost. Animal care and use oversight failures have a demonstrated history of being the direct cause of inhumane treatment, even by the institutions' own self-serving low standards.

Just as defending and sheltering cruelty to the animals being used in the university's research gravy train of tax dollars contributes to a culture of only cursory oversight and moral reliance on the institution's manufactured public relations public image, so too does the defense and promotion of speculative experiments that put us all at such grave risk. Everyone at the university is complicit to some degree in both cases: researchers, lab techs, administrators, cafeteria workers, English professors, music teachers, coaches, students, you name it.

The average German kept her mouth shut when people started being rounded up. But doing so resulted in only 10 to 20 million people being killed over a period of years. The 1918 Spanish flu killed somewhere between three and five percent of the human population, 50 to 100 million out of a population of about 1.8 billion, in a matter of months.

In today's terms, with about 7 billion of us crowded together, flying all over the place, a similar mortality rate would mean that we could expect somewhere between about 200 and 400 million of us dying; perhaps many more given the nature of the germs being invented all because Yoshihiro Kawaoka is hoping to come up with a better and marketable flu vaccine.

This seems like something people ought to be speaking out about as well as asking their legislators to stop.

Friday, July 18, 2014

UW-Madison's Preparedness Plan

An article published on line by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel [UW puts worst-case-scenario planning for biosafety to the test] reported on the University of Wisconsin, Madison simulating a bombing at Camp Randall in order to gain practice and to test the university's emergency response plans. It reads like a planted article.

Rebecca Moritz, research compliance specialist for UW-Madison's biological safety office, is quoted throughout the article. She was acting as the university spokesperson and as an expert in emergency response planning.
Government anti-terrorism regulations dictate tight security around any biological agent that poses a potentially severe health threat. UW-Madison's labs are subject to regular and unannounced inspections by the CDC's enforcement division, Rebecca Moritz, research compliance specialist for UW-Madison's biological safety office, said Wednesday.

"When inspectors come in, it's their job to find things that are wrong to make us better," Moritz said. "When we have been inspected, we've been told many of our practices and procedures are best practice." ....

.... Moritz will be among more than 100 "victims" participating in Thursday's simulated Boston Marathon-esque terrorist bombing at Camp Randall because participating will benefit her work with biosecurity, she said.

Moritz was part of the planning committee because she works closely on biosecurity issues with the UW-Madison and Madison police departments and the FBI.....

.... UW researchers previously simulated an accidental release of a virus in a lab, Moritz said. That scenario involved a researcher coming down with symptoms at home.

"We come to their home, cover them in (Personal Protective Equipment) and put a respirator and gloves on them," Moritz said. "We transport them to the hospital and have a specific plan for who calls who." UW Hospital was involved in that simulation because the pretend victim was transported by the UW biosafety team and placed in one of several isolation rooms in the ambulance bay of the hospital's Emergency Department.

"I want to see their procedures from a patient's perspective," Moritz said, explaining why she's a pretend bombing victim.

The whole point of incidence response plans is to think about and drill all possible worst-case scenarios ahead of time, Moritz said.

"If something horrible were to happen, we've thought of everything and know exactly what to do."
There are a number of things about this, beside the article's reassuring tone, that give me pause. One is the described response to the accidental virus infection. Someone phones from home that they aren't feeling well and the emergency team rushes to their home, puts a respirator and gloves on them and then rushes them to the hospital.

If the person who was calling in was from Yoshihiro Kawaoka's flu lab, and if they really were sick from some gain-of-function highly virulent mutant strain, the steps needed in a containment plan are well beyond the university's capabilities; they are beyond anyone's.
The Flu Is Contagious

Most healthy adults may be able to infect other people beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than 7 days. Symptoms start 1 to 4 days after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those persons may still spread the virus to others. [bold in original]

If one of Kawaoka's lab workers calls in sick, it means that every person he or she had come in contact with over the preceding day or two at least, would have to be assumed to be a potential carrier of the virus and spreading it to the people they came into contact with; the number of exposures and carriers could cascade out of control. I wonder what the plan is? I wonder if there even is a plan? I hope there's something planned other than rushing to someone's house a few days late.

The article seems to me to have a reassuring tone, beginning and ending with assurances that all is well -- the university is prepared for big emergencies, even the escape of a deadly virus, but, it tells us in the next breath, there could never be such an accident in the first place. I'm comforted.

In past statements, the university has said that we ought not be too concerned because it's risky even to drive a car. But they have said honestly that the risk is never zero. In this article Sarah Van Orman, a physician and executive director of UW-Madison's University Health Services, says that an escape from the Kawaoka lab just isn't a "realistic scenario." This could be a change in their talking point.

I asked the writer of the Sentinel article whether she had actually seen the university's preparedness plan; she hasn't replied.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Public conversation about important research is a good thing," lied Timothy Yoshino.

I recently had an op-ed published in a local weekly paper warning people about dangerous research being conducted at UW-Madison and urging them to contact their elected representatives and urge them to intervene.

The university's response was a gem. Read it here.

I love the way it starts out. "If Rick Bogle’s credibility wasn’t already on life support, it should be now."

I have to smile at that, but who's their audience? They seem to believe that readers already have an opinion of my credibility. I am a force. I've written about this phenomena before. And here.

They go on. "Bogle’s alarmist and irresponsible opinion piece: 'Flu lab accident could leave millions dead within weeks,' is rife with errors, too many to list in a short response,..."

Not even room to point out one error? The biggest error? Darned too many to mention it seems.

And, true to form, they make misleading assertions. "The work he criticizes as a public health threat is in reality an identified priority of the world’s major health organizations...". Except it isn't.

It's true that the U.S. government and the World Health Organization have official statements on the need to monitor, research, and prepare for seasonal and pandemic influenza outbreaks, but neither the U.S. government nor the WHO has recommended efforts to make flu strains more deadly and unaffected by our immune system.

They note that influenza research at the university has been conducted without incident "for years." That's sort of true. Kawaoka's current BSL-3 lab has been in operation since late 2007, maybe 2008, and there hasn't been a reported accident that I have heard of. But a string of unreported violations and close calls at the CDC and associated labs makes it clear that accidents are essentially inevitable.

In the case of pandemic extremely virulent influenza viruses, the simple fact that there is even the slightest chance of a public infection makes the risks too great. The extremely low probability that the research will yield significant clinical benefit is paltry reason to risk the lives of many millions.

The university says that I have "demonstrated an amazing lack of responsibility."

Wow. Just wow. I criticize research at the university that senior infectious disease experts and the editors of Nature express public concern over, and I'm not being responsible. Newspapers and on-line sources from around the world are talking about Kawaoka and the 1918 Spanish flu, and quoting senior scientists and doing their best to alert the public to the risks inherent in Kawaoka's work. Wild. The university argues that pie-in-the-sky outweighs unlikely cataclysm.

The authors must not know about Kawaoka's Ebola problems, the Vilas Monkeys, Gary Splitter, Ei Terasawa, Michelle Basso, the illegal sheep decompression deaths, the illegal mouse fights, the shredded video tapes, Jennifer Hess, the repeated animal welfare violations, or any of the myriad other examples of the university's irresponsible and reprehensible history concerning its publicly funded bio-research program. They must think it sounds better to just make wild and vague insinuations. They were probably tutored by staff of the university's School of Mass Communications.

They write: Reasoned public conversation about important research is a good thing. Unfortunately the op-ed written by Bogle does nothing to further that objective."

What crap. Total crap. They don't want discussion. People who want discussion, like me, start discussing; the university only obfuscates, resists, lies, reacts, calculates, and whines that it wishes there was more discussion (about how great it is.)

This silly response to my letter was attributed to Timothy Yoshino, responsible official, UW-Madison Select Agent Program, and Susan West, chair, UW-Madison Institutional Biosafety Committee, which has done nothing to assuage my concerns.

I wonder what Timothy Yoshino's title means? Responsible official.

I wasn't a Spock baby. I was spanked when I was young, and later my father beat me with his belt. I have a sense of responsibility that doesn't seem to fit with whatever consequence Timothy Yoshino would have to bear if there is an accident in the Kawaoka lab. I suspect the consequences for Yoshino would be nil, assuming he lives.