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  1. News Release

  2. Jun 23, 2022

New NIH Director? Physicians Group Tells Biden to Keep Looking

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine—a nonprofit with 17,000 doctor members, has written to President Joe Biden to express concerns about the potential nomination of Dr. Mary Klotman for director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The Physicians Committee pointed out Klotman’s long history of nonhuman primate use in her own research. 

Under former director Francis Collins’ leadership, the NIH made thehistoric decision to end the funding of chimpanzee research after the Institute of Medicine declared in 2011 that there was not a single area of human health research for which chimpanzees were necessary–despite us having about 99 percent of our DNA in common. Whether it’s chimpanzees or the monkeys used in Dr. Klotman’s studies, rhesus macaques and cynomolgus monkeys, the use of nonhuman primates to study human diseases has repeatedly failed to produce useful data or treatments. Of the hundreds of HIV vaccines that demonstrated positive outcomes in nonhuman primates, none has been effective in human trials. There are better ways of studying infectious diseases that don’t rely on nonhuman primates but rather use novel technologies, like lymphoid follicle organ chips, that the Physicians Committee says can replicate human biology and predict human immune responses to various vaccines.

The Physicians Committee’s letter advises that federal research dollars gotoward effective and impactful nonanimal research. Despite its own recognition of the scientific and ethical limitations of animal research, the NIH continually prioritizes expanding and improving it. To truly improve the relevance and translatability of model systems to humans, the Physicians Committee suggests developing more models that are based in human biology through strategic prioritization and investment. Such decisions would come from the top-down, starting with the director.

The next NIH director should focus national medical research and public health efforts on nonanimal, human-specific approaches. Human-specific research uses human cells, tissues, subjects, and data to investigate health and disease and includes a broad range of methods, from tissue chips and organoids to the use of electronic health records and measures of neighborhood disadvantage. 

“The Physicians Committee does not have confidence that Dr. Klotmancan support the nation in achieving its stated goals to end cancer as we know it, to prevent disease, to advance health equity, and to get safer and more effective treatments to patients in need,” says Catharine E. Krebs, PhD, medical research specialist with the Physicians Committee.

Media Contact

Reina Pohl, MPH



Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in education and research.

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