After Two More Primate Deaths, NEPRC Head Steps Down

Following two recent monkey deaths at Harvard Medical School’s New England Primate Research Center, the interim director of the research facility announced his resignation Thursday morning in an email to people associated with NEPRC.

Dean of the Medical School Jeffrey S. Flier wrote in an email that Medical School professor Frederick Wang had stepped down from his post as interim director to devote more time to his laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Wang was appointed interim director in September. Since then, the NEPRC has received multiple citations from the United States Department of Agriculture—most recently for the death of a cotton-top tamarin monkey on Sunday. The Boston Globe reported that the monkey’s cage did not contain a water bottle, which may have been a factor in the animal’s death.

In December, a squirrel monkey died from dehydration at the NEPRC.

These two deaths bring the total number of primate deaths in Harvard research facilities to five in the past 19 months.

Earlier this week, Flier announced that experimentation at the NEPRC would halt indefinitely until a corrective plan is set in place.

University President Drew G. Faust said in a statement on Thursday that she was “dismayed” to learn about the animals’ deaths.

“This situation is unacceptable,” Faust said. “When I was notified of developments at the primate center over the summer, I found them troubling and fully supported a thorough review of procedures and implementation of reforms.”

As a result of the deaths, Faust added, she has asked for weekly progress reports to monitor primate research and record any difficulties encountered.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals recently sent a letter to the National Institute of Health demanding that the government agency cease funding research at the NEPRC.

Flier wrote in an email to the NEPRC community that he was “enormously grateful” for the contributions Wang made to the NEPRC during his six-month tenure.

He wrote that Wang “demonstrated superb leadership, establishing numerous procedures and practices to address issues that he personally identified to strengthen not just animal care, but also administration and management.” Flier wrote that he hopes to announce Wang’s successor soon.

—Staff writer Nathalie R. Miraval can be reached at nmiraval@college.harvard.edu.

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