NIH News Release
National Center for Research Resources

Wednesday, September 29, 1999

Karen Malone or Kathy Kaplan
Office of Communications/NCRR
(301) 435-0888

Nonhuman Primate Research Center Established for Biomedical Research

The National Institutes of Health announced today that it has established a new nonhuman primate research center at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, located in San Antonio, Texas. The Southwest Regional Primate Research Center (RPRC) was established with a five-year, base grant provided by the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a component of NIH. The Southwest center becomes the eighth RPRC in this country. A new RPRC has not been established by NIH for more than 40 years since the creation of the original seven centers and the inception of the national Regional Primate Research Center Program.

Upon receiving the NCRR grant, Dr. John VandeBerg, who is the Foundation's scientific director and will be principal investigator of the Southwest RPRC, said, "Establishing the Southwest Regional Primate Research Center is without a doubt the most significant event that has occurred at the Foundation since it was founded in 1941." He says the resources made possible by this award will allow the Southwest RPRC to increase its scientific collaborations with other institutions, both in this country and abroad, and expand its primate research programs, developed over a period of three decades.

The Southwest RPRC is home to the largest baboon breeding colony in the world, augmented by the largest and deepest pedigrees ever established for a nonhuman primate species. This unique baboon colony also provides a nonhuman primate model of familial hypercholesterolemia for gene therapy research and a geriatric population for research on aging.

Dr. VandeBerg expects that the Southwest center will become the hub for RPRC nonhuman primate genetics research programs and will aid the other RPRCs in the genetic management of captive nonhuman primates to ensure their long-term genetic well being and to optimize their use in research. This will include substantial studies in mapping the baboon chromosomes. The original seven RPRCs, affiliated with academic medical institutions, are located in Washington, Oregon, Georgia, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Louisiana, and California.

Dr. Judith Vaitukaitis, NCRR director, hails the establishment of the Southwest RPRC as an important event in the long history of the RPRC Program, bringing great strength to this national-level program. She says "The Southwest RPRC will be an extremely valuable resource in the area of genetics, AIDS research, cardiovascular disease, infectious diseases, and even studies of common diseases such as osteoporosis and hypertension, as well as lung and heart diseases of premature babies. It will provide new opportunities for the biomedical research community to access newly developed primate models of human diseases and technologies for using nonhuman primates in studies to improve human health."

The National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), led by Dr. Judith Vaitukaitis, serves as a catalyst for discovery for NIH-supported investigators throughout the nation. NCRR creates, develops, and provides a comprehensive range of human, animal, technological, and other resources to enable biomedical research advances. Complementing the mission of the NIH, NCRR seeks scientific knowledge that will lead to better health and reduced illness and disability for our nation's citizens.