Report: False designation for primate could block ability to test groundbreaking drugs

The endangered species status from one international organization is being contested over errors as it threatens critical, life-saving research.

An international organization’s designation of endangered status for the long-tailed macaque is being challenged by the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR). 

The NABR is a nonprofit that advocates for the humane use of animals in biomedical research. 


The backstory: Long-tailed macaques – a type of old world monkey native to Asia – are used in medical research to develop drugs in the United States that require testing with primates before human clinical trials can begin. 

  • But on March 7, the IUCN determined that the long-tailed macaque should be considered endangered under its criteria based on an assessment completed last year. 

The big picture: Thursday, the NABR filed a petition with the IUCN to challenge the endangered status, arguing that last year’s assessment contains many errors and misstatements and does not provide evidence of species declines compared to past evaluations. 

  • The petition triggers a scientific review by the IUCN to determine whether or not the long-tailed macaque should be classified as endangered instead of vulnerable. 

What they’re saying: NABR President Matthew Bailey said primates play a critical role in developing new drugs, devices and vaccines yet only make up less than 0.5 percent of all animals used in research. 

  • “Tens of thousands of drugs and therapeutics may never make it through the research and development pipeline without long-tailed macaques in research. The listing of long-tailed macaques and any ensuing importation restrictions must be based on the best available scientific evidence,” Bailey said. “Arbitrary restrictions imposed on the importation of long-tailed macaques could jeopardize millions of human lives and threaten global public health.” 
  • Bailey said the classification sets a dangerous precedent because it was not determined from peer-reviewed scientific information. 
  • “This is particularly troubling because arbitrary actions like this make life-saving medical research even more difficult to conduct in the U.S. and other countries.”
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