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From the Director

A Statement from the NIH Director, Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D.

February 8, 2008

On Tuesday, February 5, an incendiary device ignited at the front door of the home of Dr. Edythe London, an NIH-supported senior scientist and professor in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. This domestic terrorist act against a scientist who has dedicated 30 years of her life to medical research is intolerable.

This is the second time in four months that Dr. London has been targeted. The first time, an extremist group calling itself the Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility for flooding London's home and causing $30,000 worth of damage. Although no one has claimed responsibility for this attack, it is similar to two previous strikes by animal rights activists (in 2006 and 2007) against an ophthalmologist and a research psychologist at UCLA. In these attacks, the extremists used Molotov cocktail-type devices, which were lit but did not ignite. These attacks are part of a campaign of unrelenting harassment that has also involved the researchers' family members.

Dr. London has dedicated most of her life to studying how chronic drug abuse affects brain function and behavioral control. Her work is a prime example of NIH's efforts to promote translational research, tightly integrating animal and human studies in order to more rapidly bring new discoveries to the public. Dr. London's research is part of a broader public health effort to develop effective treatments for people suffering from addiction—a disease that devastates individuals, families, communities, and costs society more than half a trillion dollars annually in health and crime-related costs and losses in productivity.

It is important to note that there are laws, regulations, and policies to ensure the appropriate care and use of animals in federally-funded research activities. The knowledge we gain from animal models is used to develop life-saving treatments for many diseases affecting the public health, including addiction. This knowledge ultimately saves lives and improves the quality of life for individuals, their families, and all of society.

Attacks on researchers and scientific institutions threaten the health of the nation. Terrorism against researchers using animals is real and intolerable. The terrorist activity against Dr. London and her family was not just intimidation—it was life threatening. This was a threat not only to her, but to dedicated scientists working to improve serious health problems facing this country. This violence must stop.

Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., Director, NIH
Norka Ruiz Bravo, Ph.D., Deputy Director for Extramural Research, NIH
Nora D. Volkow, M.D., Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIH

This page was last reviewed on January 7, 2010 .
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