The complex will provide brand new indoor/outdoor housing for up to 800 nonhuman primates and advanced veterinary care capabilities.
SAN ANTONIO (December 8, 2021) – Texas Biomedical Research Institute (Texas Biomed) and the Southwest National Primate Research Center (SNPRC) broke ground today on four new buildings that will enable them to continue providing exceptional care for nonhuman primates, play a central role in addressing the nation’s nonhuman primate shortage, and accelerate the Institute’s growth in infectious disease research.
Animal models are a critical resource in the development of diagnostics, therapies and vaccines for infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, HIV, Ebola and tuberculosis, as well as understanding related cancers, diabetes, neurodegeneration and more.
The Animal Care Complex will be built on Texas Biomed’s 200-acre campus, with construction estimated to get underway after the holidays and finish in early 2023. The complex consists of four structures: three large indoor/outdoor housing spaces that can support multiple primate species. The 18,000-square-foot animal care building will feature a top-of-the-line veterinary clinic, pathology labs and a central meeting space for animal care staff.
“First and foremost, this project is about providing the best possible care for our animals,” says Deepak Kaushal, PhD, Director of the SNPRC. “Our talented and compassionate team provide exceptional care to our 2,500 primates, and these new facilities will ensure they can continue to do that well into the future.”
Texas Biomed and SNPRC are committed to exceeding the highest standards of care for laboratory animals, and are fully accredited by the international agency AAALAC. The new care complex will support those efforts through modernized facilities and structures designed to withstand extreme weather events, which are projected to occur more frequently as the climate changes.
The care complex will also enable SNPRC to strategically expand its critical role supporting biomedical research. The ongoing national primate shortage was exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, with not enough animals available for required pre-clinical tests of vaccines and treatments before moving into human clinical trials.
“Nonhuman primates are the unsung heroes of biomedical research and are essential to helping us eradicate infectious diseases here in San Antonio and around the world,” says Larry Schlesinger, MD, President and CEO of Texas Biomed. “This complex will enable us to strategically grow our colony and help ensure the nation is better prepared for future pandemics.”
This is the first major construction project as part of Texas Biomed’s 10-year Strategic Plan launched in 2019. A $4 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration kick-started fundraising efforts for the more than $15 million project, and generous donor support and institutional funds are covering the remaining costs.
San Antonio City Councilwoman Melissa Havrda notes that the growth for Texas Biomed in the next 10 years will be a win-win for her district and the overall region.
“Texas Biomed is a critical piece of the city’s public health infrastructure and an important economic development partner in my district,” she says. “Studies show Texas Biomed will contribute $3 billion to our region’s economy once this decade of growth culminates. That impact will be phenomenal.”
Flad Architects is the architectural design firm working closely with the SNPRC team to ensure all facilities are maximized for functionality, safety and care, with a close eye to details to make life better for animals and their caretakers.
SNPRC is one of seven National Primate Research Centers and houses several species of nonhuman primates with unique features: the largest colony of baboons in the U.S., which has lived at Texas Biomed for eight generations; the largest group of geriatric marmosets in the U.S., which help study disease and aging; and rhesus macaques bred to be free of specific pathogens, which are integral to the study of HIV, TB, COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
Alternative methods for studying diseases and treatments are still under development and there is no replacement for evaluating how an entire body will respond to a medicine or vaccine. Studies carefully move through a process and only proceed to primates if showing promise in cells and smaller animals. The fewest possible animals are used and humanely treated throughout.
“We all have great respect for these animals and the detailed insights they can provide to improve animal and human health,” Dr. Kaushal explains. “Our top priority is taking care of them and we are excited for this project to get underway.”
Significant medical advancements that have come from working with SNPRC primates include: the neonatal high frequency ventilator, hepatitis B vaccine, hepatitis C cure and Ebola virus treatment and vaccine. COVID-19 therapeutics and vaccines were shown to be safe and effective through studies at SNPRC before moving into human clinical trials.
Dr. Schlesinger adds, “Alongside our scientists, the animals at SNPRC are saving lives, and it is our honor and privilege to care for them as they provide so much for human health.”
The Southwest National Primate Research Center is also supported by the Office of Research Infrastructure Programs, National Institutes of Health through the grant P51 OD011133.
A version of this story appeared in the Summer 2022 edition of TxBiomed magazine. See more stories from TxBiomed here.
About the Southwest National Primate Research Center at Texas Biomed
Texas Biomed is one of the world’s leading independent biomedical research institutions dedicated to advancing health worldwide through innovative biomedical research focused on protecting the global community from the threats of infectious diseases. The Institute is home to the Southwest National Primate Research Center (SNPRC) and provides broad services in primate research. SNPRC contributes to a national network of National Primate Research Centers (NPRCs) with specialized technologies, capabilities and primate resources, many of which are unique to the SNPRC. The Center also serves investigators around the globe with research and technical procedures for collaborative projects. For more information on Texas Biomed, go to www.TxBiomed.org or for more information on SNPRC, visit www.SNPRC.org.