Thursday, April 24, 2014

Primate center readies respiratory disease lab


Louise Olsen, inhalation exposure facility manager, speaks with reporters about specially designed chambers inside the California National Primate Center's new respiratory disease laboratory building. With room for up to four monkeys, the building's 12 chambers will be used to expose animals to allergens and air pollutants. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

From page A1 | February 28, 2014 | 21 Comments

A one-of-a-kind respiratory disease lab is nearing completion at the California National Primate Research Center at UC Davis.

The 19,000-square-foot building will house an inhalation exposure facility unique among the eight National Institutes of Health-supported primate centers, plus new laboratory, meeting and office space.

Initial areas of study there will include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, exposure to secondhand smoke and air pollution, childhood asthma and infectious diseases, including H1N1 influenza in infants.

“We’re absolutely thrilled to be opening this building,” said Lisa Miller, an associate professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine, during a media tour held Thursday. “From a technical side, this is fantastic facility to study environmental exposures using the nonhuman primate as a model.

“This is really the first time that we can have a large group of respiratory scientists collaborating together. We’re expecting visiting scientists from other universities to come in and work with us.”

The building cost about $18 million. Of that, $14.2 million came from federal stimulus money, the balance from UCD.

Inside, the new inhalation exposure facility measures 6,643 square feet. It includes 12 specially designed, glass-sided exposure chambers, which can hold four monkeys each, allowing researchers to expose animals to, say, ozone or allergens.

The new facility also has a room specially designed to study exposure to cigarette smoke and three clean-air animal holding rooms, each of which can hold 32 caged monkeys and a pulmonary function testing laboratory.

“And we have windows,” said Louise Olsen, inhalation facility manager.

The center’s current exposure facility, constructed in 1972, is really just a large steel shed, measuring 4,800 square feet, with a dated air-handling system.

The old structure holds 18 smaller exposure chambers that hold only two monkeys and that open from only one side, making them more difficult to use for animal-care staff, Olsen said.

Center director Dallas Hyde said a new room that will be used to study secondhand smoke exposure is particularly unique.

“It’s very difficult to do secondhand tobacco exposures in small chambers because you don’t get the aging of smoke that would happen in a smoky bar,” he said. “In a large room like that you can get those types of chemical reactions.

“It’s expensive to build these, but if you can ever do this, it’s a golden opportunity to look at the injurious components of secondhand smoke. We have not been able to do that in the past.”

Added Hyde, “In Davis, not that many people smoke, so we don’t think cigarette smoking is a big issue. But there’s 10 to 15 million mothers a year in this country that smoke during pregnancy. So understanding the effects on prenatal and how that affects post-natal development is a critical issue.”

For now, lab space related to respiratory research is housed in separate buildings. The new structure places two laboratories and adjacent tissue-culture under the same roof, a few steps away from the exposure areas.

Microscopes, incubators to culture cells and the faculty, post-doctoral researchers and graduate students who use them likely will be moved in by summer, Miller said, after a series of inspections and certifications is complete.

About 42 UCD faculty members are involved in respiratory research.

Another 26 researchers from across the country have expressed interest in doing work at the facility, Hyde said. He said he expects 10 to 15 of those to write grants to perform research at the center in the next year.

The center also will promote its new facility on other UC and nearby campuses, as well as at events like an upcoming American Thoracic Society conference, Hyde said.

The new building also will enable the center to double the total number of graduate students and post-doctoral fellows doing research there.

Currently, 12 graduate students and 10 post-doctoral fellows do research at the center. Other primary areas of research include brain, mind and behavior, infectious disease and reproductive sciences and regenerative medicine.

The Primate Center is west of the main campus, on 300 acres ringed by barbed wire and video cameras, on County Road 98 adjacent to Hutchison Drive. Its staff numbers about 350.

The center also is home to about 4,900 monkeys, almost all of them rhesus macaques.

About 65 percent of the animals live outside in family groups — most in one of 24 half-acre corrals that include shade structures, wind breaks, barrels, play structures and gas-powered heaters. About 850 monkeys are born at the center annually.

— Reach Cory Golden at or 530-747-8046. Follow him on Twitter at @cory_golden

Cory Golden

Cory Golden

The Enterprise's higher-education and congressional reporter.

Discussion | 21 comments

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  • VegConsciousFebruary 28, 2014 - 6:38 pm

    I just feel so so sorry for these monkeys!! Being exposed to allergens and air pollutants such as ozone and cigarette smoke doesn't sound like a lot of fun to me :( Living in confinement all your life doesn't either. So sad to see all this tax payers' money wasted for torturing animals. We already know that cigarette smoke is bad, and ozone is either, why wasting time and money?!

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  • LaraFebruary 28, 2014 - 7:58 pm

    This is shameful.

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  • ConcernedUndergrad@UCDFebruary 28, 2014 - 11:56 pm

    As an undergrad at UCD i am ashamed that we have a primate center! A lot of students aren't even aware of this center but when they find out they are dissapointed as well. As vegconscious noted- we know cigarettes are BAD. Everyone does. This is unnecessary and inhumane.

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  • March 01, 2014 - 4:53 am

    As George Bernard Shaw said, “You do not settle whether an experiment is justified or not by merely showing that it is of some use. The distinction is not between useful and useless experiments, but between barbarous and civilized behavior.” There are some medical problems that can probably only be cured by testing on unwilling people, but we don’t do it because we recognize that it would be wrong. We need to extend this same concern to other living, feeling beings, regardless of what species they may be." I am ashamed to be part of a community where this kind of abuse and cruelty is lauded. It's beyond heartbreaking. It's criminal.

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  • March 01, 2014 - 4:57 am

    So now we are condoning and financing torture chambers?????? What has happened to us as a society??? And in Davis, of all places. Shameful. How do these people get up and go to work each morning?? And how do we live with ourselves as members of this community? What can we do to shut this place down? THAT IS THE ARTICLE I WANT TO READ.

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  • March 01, 2014 - 12:33 pm

    Instead of torturing animals, they should invest their time and money into educating those 10-15 million mothers smoking during pregnancy!!

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  • Stephanee SMarch 01, 2014 - 5:18 pm

    Thanks for this article and the photos. Now I understand the opposition and protests around this center. It is shameful and inhumane that humans would subject animals to this treatment. The enthusiastic quotes about how this new building will make it easier for UCD to enact this maltreatment is very disturbing and depressing. The livestock industry is moving away from battery cages and gestation crates, while UCD, a self-proclaimed leader in innovation, promotes their shiny new confinement structures and plans to expand ill-treatment and poisoning of animals. And, this is primarily funded by economic stimulus money....? Our tax dollars that were supposed to go to help those who lost their jobs and savings....?

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  • Rich RifkinMarch 01, 2014 - 6:02 pm

    "With room for up to four monkeys, the building's 12 chambers will be used to expose animals to allergens and air pollutants (like second hand smoke)." ......... That's not torture. It's not mistreatment. It's not abuse. To read the previous comments one would think the scientists conducting this research were masochists. When I was in college at UCSB in the mid-1980s, I was paid as a human guinea pig to breathe in industrial pollutants (in a decompression chamber) in order to determine what levels were safe or harmful at various altitudes. I never realized that some activists would consider that malicious. I was happy to make $3.35 an hour. .............. Not only will these monkeys be doing a great service for those who would suffer from second-hand smoke, but their lives at the Primate Center will be far less traumatic than the lives of most monkeys in the wild. Nature itself is cruel and vicious. In a forest, monkeys savagely kill one another all the time. They are hunted by other animals and by people. They very often catch diseases like AIDS or they simply starve when there is too little food. Certainly, given the choice of breathing clean air or being exposed to second hand smoke, the former is better. But considering the horrible lives monkeys normally have in nature, this is not worth crying over.

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  • StovetopMarch 01, 2014 - 9:39 pm

    “It’s very difficult to do secondhand tobacco exposures in small chambers because you don’t get the aging of smoke that would happen in a smoky bar,” he said. “In a large room like that you can get those types of chemical reactions. <<<<--- where is there still smoking going on in a public place anywhere in the US, besides casinos? This is JUNK science and strictly about funding to perpetuate careers and why was tax payer money used when companies like phillip morris should have paid fines for fraud on consumers 30-40 years ago. what happened to those monies. Where's the bioethics debate utilizing taxpayers monies? Is any student or researcher reaching out to NAVS? i doubt it, but here's their link.

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  • MeganMarch 02, 2014 - 8:50 am

    What an absurd comparison, Rich. Subjecting them to smoke and allergens against their will is CRUEL. Just because you were fine with it doesn't mean everyone should be fine with it. You CONSENTED to inhale pollutants and you got PAID. These animals are there against their will with no control over their own circumstances. How can you even draw that comparison with a straight face?

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  • Rich RifkinMarch 02, 2014 - 11:40 am

    Megan, certainly there is the difference you point out. However, that does not mean this treatment of these animals is "torture." As I noted, these monkeys used in this research will in all likelihood have a much better life than their compatriots left to fend for themselves in the so-called wild (where they are probably hunted by humans for meat). ........... Others who complain that research on second-hand smoke is illegitimate on its face (never mind that most serious exposure to second-hand smoke is within the household and personal vehicle of a smoker), that is a completely different objection.

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  • March 02, 2014 - 5:25 pm

    Wow Rich- you have sunk to an all time low! Sometimes I agreed with you and sometimes I didn't but, at least I respected you.

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  • David englandMarch 01, 2014 - 7:53 pm

    Vile. More sadistic cruelty, this wasteful ' research' is a relic, 19th century thinking and poor science. Money talks here.

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  • CarmellaMarch 01, 2014 - 11:45 pm

    I am completely disgusted. I am considering creating a protest against the primate center. If anyone is interested please contact me. Thank you.

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  • YoMarch 02, 2014 - 10:06 am

    Carmella, I want to join your protest. Email me at

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  • JohnMarch 02, 2014 - 7:51 am

    How much research from the tobacco industry will this facility support?

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  • YoMarch 02, 2014 - 10:03 am

    Does anyone else wonder what happens to the 35% of monkeys (1,715 of them) that DON'T live in the outside corrals?

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  • Nicole (@Ms_Nikki_G)March 02, 2014 - 11:47 am

    This is disgusting and shameful! We should be at the point where animals are no longer tested upon, especially for something we all know is harmful, cigarette smoke!! Why don't you find some willing human test subjects to work for free cigarettes.

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  • Monkeys Are Equal Too!March 02, 2014 - 1:59 pm

    This is cruel! Davis should NOT be supporting the abuse of innocent creatures. Although I agree that it is important to help find cures to diseases, we should not save lives by ending other lives! As to your point about "the horrible lives monkeys live in nature," Mr. Rifkin, I can't say I agree to that either. The primate center seems much more "cruel and vicious" in comparison to the wild. Monkeys have a chance of getting hurt in the wild, but a huge change of getting hurt at the primate center. And in the wild they have a chance to enjoy life, but, at the primate center, their lives are most likely boring, lonely, and painful. "24 half-acre corrals that include shade structures, wind breaks, barrels, play structures and gas-powered heaters" - along with small cells filled with dangerous gas - are nothing compared to the free outside world where these monkeys were born to live. If being forced to inhale poison gas isn't a dangerous life for monkeys, I don't know what is.

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  • VEGANMarch 04, 2014 - 1:37 pm

    UC Davis: Be ashamed. This is torture of innocent, intelligent, sentient beings and a waste of money.

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  • Sharon BeaulieuApril 16, 2014 - 5:41 am

    Disgusting!!! In this day and age and with all the new technology available,why are you still testing on animals? Why not test on humans that smoke? Animals don't smoke!!!!

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