Federal investigators expected at UTMB's monkey research facility

GALVESTON, Texas – Investigators from the United States Department of Agriculture are expected to visit the University of Texas Medical Branch this month to discuss treatment of monkeys used in research following a scathing audit of UTMB's practices by an arm of the National Institutes of Science.

The audit said UTMB did not properly care for the welfare of monkeys used in research, including that UTMB researchers allowed the monkeys to suffer as they died after being injected by Marburg virus, an Ebola-like disease that produces a painful death.

UTMB is searching for a vaccine against such viruses.

UTMB said the audit, released earlier this year and reported on by various media outlets, unfairly characterized its research. UTMB said it properly followed research protocols, but has said it will work to address concerns found in the NIH audit and any additional concerns the USDA may discuss during its visit.

One section of the report reads, "It is unknown how long the animals suffered before dying." 

The report says that some of the monkeys lay dying in a cage for 15 hours without being checked on.

The Ohio-based animal activist group, Stop Animal Exploitation Now, first brought attention to the report.

A UTMB spokesman told Channel 2 that the government requires animal testing for new medicines and that research, using monkeys, has brought vaccine research to new heights.

"UTMB believes that our researchers followed the agreed-upon protocols for animal care," said Raul Reyes, spokesperson for UTMB.

Watch the story above to learn more about the audit, including where some research monkeys go to live after research projects are completed.

If you have a tip for investigative reporter Jace Larson, email or text him atjlarson@kprc.com or 832-493-3951.