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Cambridge primate centre to go ahead

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has announced its decision on whether Cambridge University are allowed to build a new primate research centre.

Professor Tony Minson, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, of Cambridge University, said:

“We are pleased that this important research centre has been given the go-ahead by the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott. It is reassuring that the Government is sending this unequivocal message of support for neuroscience in the UK.

“The University remains convinced of the national importance of this research to medical advancement. Neurological diseases have a huge worldwide impact and combating these devastating conditions is a major scientific priority.”

For the full Cambridge press release please call Nick Champion, 01223 339 670.

Lord Robert Winston, Professor Of Fertility Studies at Hammersmith Hospital, Imperial College, London, said:

“This is a decision which will save many human lives and support continuing developments in treating our biggest medical problem – severe mental illness.”

Professor Colin Blakemore, Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council, said:

“We know that many people find the use of primates in medical research distressing but the Cambridge research facility is needed to enable scientists to find treatments for life threatening diseases.

“Primates are very rarely used in medical research but because of their similarity to humans in terms of biological make-up and brain function, sometimes they are the only option to answer particular research questions. However, it is extremely important that every effort is made to find alternatives and to ensure that, where primates are used, any suffering is reduced to the minimum possible.”

David Morton, Professor of Biomedical Science & Ethics, University of Birmingham, said:

“I welcome the setting up of a modern primate centre at Cambridge that will bring state of the art facilities to maximise the welfare of the animals, and justifiable scientific benefits when no alternatives to the use of primates exist. The centre could also minimise the number of primates being used in research, for example, by sharing tissues, and information on good practices.”

Dr Mark Matfield, Director of the Research Defense Society, said:

“This decision is extremely good news for medical research in the UK. We are one of the world leaders in neuroscience research, and this state of the art research centre is essential if we are to keep our world class scientists and stay in the forefront of research into diseases such as Alzheimer’s, stroke and Parkinson’s.”

Professor Ray Tallis, Head of Geriatric Medicine, University of Manchester, said:

“Although I have never conducted animal research myself, I know that this is the only way to advance our understanding of diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s and achieve a cure. Computer modeling, research on individual cells or even on lower animals is no substitute for primate research. I would welcome a new primate research laboratory in Cambridge to facilitate this necessary and urgently required research.”

Phillip Connolly, Director of the Coalition for Medical Progress, said:

“Primate research is essential if, for example, we are to make progress against Parkinson’s or develop a vaccine against malaria. While we can answer many questions without animals at all, and rodents are usually sufficient when we do need to use animals, the closeness of primates to humans means that sometimes they are the only option. As with all animals, they are only used when there is no alternative.”

Professor Chris Higgins, Director of the MRC Clinical Services Centre, said:

“Our work on basic brain function couldn’t be applied to human disease without some sort of research being done on animals – and in some cases, these animals have to be primates. The human brain is clearly more complex than a mouse’s, so problems such as memory degeneration have to be studied in the brain of an animal that has the same level of memory functions as a human being.”

Dr Simon Festing of the Association of Medical Research Charities, said:

“Patients suffering a wide range of diseases will be relieved that we can make medical progress without giving in to the anarchy of animal rights extremism.

“AMRC welcomes this sensible decision from the Government, recognizing that the public supports medical research.”

A spokesperson for the Parkinson’s Disease Society, said:

“Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disease of the brain. Improved treatment and the search for a cure depend crucially on a better understanding of the processes of the disease. Research is vital in the search for a cure, effective treatments and the prevention of this distressing condition.

“In the last few decades thousands of people with Parkinson’s have benefited from new therapies, such as L-Dopa, which would not have been developed but for the insights gained from research involving animals.”

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