Colombian Experimenters’ Dubious Practices Appear to Have Gone Unnoticed by NIH, the CDC, and Multiple Major Universities
For Immediate Release:
January 3, 2023
Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382
Washington – The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is expected to decide soon if more U.S. taxpayer dollars will go to two Colombian malaria experimenters who are currently under investigation by local authorities and who confine tiny owl monkeys to rusty cages amid their own waste in a makeshift pen made of backyard fencing and plastic sheets. After an exhaustive 18-month investigation involving testimonies from 11 insiders, PETA filed a complaint, including video and photographic evidence, with NIH on December 21 to expose the married couple’s apparent wrongdoing. This includes seemingly illegal capture and breeding of monkeys, apparently illegal experiments on these animals, horrific violations of animal welfare laws and NIH animal welfare guidelines, questionable business practices such as having children on the board of directors, lack of properly established ethics committees to review research protocols involving animals and humans, and, as alleged by insiders, manipulation of data and mishandling of human samples. Images in this video reveal the horrific, apparently illegal confinement conditions.
It appears that no one at NIH ever asked experimenters Sócrates Herrera Valencia and Myriam Arévalo Ramírez to back up, with records, all the claims they had made in grant applications before handing over $17 million to their organizations, Caucaseco Scientific Research Center (Caucaseco) and the Malaria Vaccine and Drug Development Center (MVDC) in Cali, Colombia. Herrera has collaborative agreements with the chief of the Malaria Immunology Section in the Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research at NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Herrera and Arévalo have published papers with leading institutions around the world, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Emory National Primate Research Center, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Florida Atlantic University, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the University of Washington, the Université de Montpellier, the Université de Lausanne, and others.
NIH doled out more than $287 million to foreign organizations in 2022, and it supposedly requires that these facilities abide by the same guidelines of animal care as laboratories in the U.S. must—but in reality, no one makes sure that happens. There are no inspections and—unlike in this country—no requirement that animal welfare violations be self-reported to NIH. A Colombian state environmental agency inspected Herrera and Arévalo’s monkey facility in November 2021 and found that there were no veterinarians on staff and no procedures to care for monkeys and that the animals endured prolonged suffering.
PETA also learned that the couple founded Caucaseco after installing themselves and their three minor children—the youngest of whom was 12 years old at the time—apparently as the sole members of its board of directors.
“NIH needs to cut off the money spigot to Caucaseco immediately and demand a return of all funds, and all scientific papers from this source and the MVDC should be immediately retracted,” says PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “Congress should then suspend NIH’s funds for foreign research organizations, since the agency is asleep at the wheel and can’t be trusted.”