WASHINGTON, June 26 (UPI) -- The U.S. National Institutes of Health announced Wednesday it plans to reduce substantially the use of chimpanzees in biomedical research it funds.
The NIH said in a release it would designate for retirement most of the chimpanzees it currently owns or supports.
NIH Director Francis S. Collins has accepted most of the recommendations made by an independent advisory council for implementing a set of principles and criteria for the use of chimpanzees in NIH-funded research, the release said.
While the NIH plans to retain but not breed as many as 50 chimpanzees for future biomedical research, the chimpanzees designated for retirement could eventually join more than 150 other chimpanzees already in the Federal Sanctuary System, operated by Chimp Haven in Louisiana under NIH oversight.
"Americans have benefited greatly from the chimpanzees' service to biomedical research, but new scientific methods and technologies have rendered their use in research largely unnecessary," Collins said.
"Their likeness to humans has made them uniquely valuable for certain types of research, but also demands greater justification for their use.
"After extensive consideration with the expert guidance of many, I am confident that greatly reducing their use in biomedical research is scientifically sound and the right thing to do."