Purcell says that his team hopes to follow the animals for several years after their return to the NIRC, drawing blood and taking liver biopsies at intervals to track the slowly developing disease. “If we can confirm that this is a transmissible disease … one could try to develop a vaccine [or] therapeutic measures.” If the animals are retired, he says, “all of that would be lost”.
The PCRM disagrees. As well as lobbying Collins to retire the four animals at Bioqual, it is asking him to pressure the NIRC to retire the eleven recent returnees as well. It has dubbed the animals 'the Rockville 15'.
The activists argue that the animals are not needed for the rapidly dwindling research, noting that the NIH instituted a moratorium on funding new studies when the IOM report was issued last year and that, at the time, Collins estimated that funding for perhaps half of current grants would be ended.
“All of these elements argue for the lack of necessity of these 15 individuals in future research and for their retirement to Chimp Haven,” the PRCM wrote to Collins.