National Academies’ Curious Conflict of Interest Criteria

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) recently announced the provisional composition of an ad hoc committee that will examine the need, both current and future, for the use of nonhuman primates (NHPs) in research funded by the National Institutes of Health. To evaluate the need for future use, the committee is tasked with exploring four specific questions, three of which are related to “new approach methodologies” (NAMs)—i.e., non-animal approaches, such as in vitro or in silico methods for toxicity testing. Among the 13 members of the committee, 10 have a history of using animals—many of them NHPs—in research. Only three members have any expertise in NAMs, two of whom also use animals in research. Of those with NAM expertise, NASEM flagged two as having a potential conflict of interest because of their involvement with companies that produce NAMs. Conversely, NASEM flagged none of the committee members who make a living by using NHPs in research. Evidently, NASEM views only one type of bias—the one that may sway someone away from the use of NHPs in research—as problematic.