A University of Wisconsin professor whose animal research privileges were revoked last year due to multiple conduct violations was recently reinstated with stricter research oversight requirements.
Associate professor of physiology Michele Basso’s research focuses on the study of monkeys’ brains to learn more about diseases such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s that debilitate movement, Chancellor Biddy Martin said in an extensive e-mail to students Friday.
Over the five-and-a-half-year period she was conducting this research, Basso was cited for a range of problems, including a lack of respect for animals and veterinarians, and was warned by the School of Medicine and Public Health’s Animal Care and Use Committee, Martin said in an interview with The Badger Herald.
After a 2008 incident in which one of her monkeys needed to be euthanized due to a complication during experimentation, her case was taken to the All-Campus ACUC for further evaluation.
At the heart of the issue was a disagreement between Basso and a veterinarian regarding how medical care should have been provided to the animal, associate professor of experimental pathology and Director of the Campus Animal Program Eric Sandgren said.
The federally mandated AC ACUC suspended her privileges to conduct animal research and her research protocols Feb. 13, 2009.
While Basso’s research privileges were reinstated in October, the AC ACUC voted last week to add the condition there will be changes in the amount of veterinary oversight during her experimental research, Martin said.
Under the new requirements, monthly reports will be filed to determine if any corrections to Basso’s research methods are necessary, and Basso will be forced to move her research animals to the Primate Center where they will be able to receive more intensive veterinary care, Sandgren said.
Basso’s reinstatement follows a December 2009 evaluation of the animal research program by the United States Department of Agriculture, which cited several problems within the system.
Since there are 6,700 people on campus certified to perform research with animals, it does not come as a surprise that there are some problems, Martin said.
“I’m always surprised, on the other hand, when there are major problems which extend over time and are not resolved,” Martin said.
Martin added the responsibility for the lack of resolution in this situation is a shared responsibility, and it must be dealt with promptly to ensure the compliance and safety system can perform its duty.
Martin said she also brought in Director of Comparative Medicine at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology James Fox as an outside consultant who could objectively evaluate the animal research system. Similar to the USDA report, Fox identified certain weaknesses within the program and recommended specific changes be made.
The reinstatement of Basso also comes at a time when animal research issues are widely debated in the campus community.
“We welcome debate about a full range of things, including animal research, but the university stands strongly behind it and will continue to,” Martin said.
Co-Director for Alliance for Animals Rick Bogle said UW is “arrogant” if it believes it can continually hurt animals while maintaining they should be treated with respect.