An animal rights group on Tuesday filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture requesting an investigation into a scientist from Sanford Research.
Stop Animal Exploitation Now’s complaint was filed by the group after it obtained a document showing that Shanta Messerli’s privileges to conduct experiments on animals had been permanently revoked.
A letter from Sanford Research to the USDA’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare indicates that Messerli first revoked her privileges in January 2021. After appeals to the Sanford Research Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), its privileges were restored to two specific experiments under direct supervision.
But the letter, signed by David Pearce, the president of innovation and research for Sanford’s World Clinic, says Messerli received a subsequent report of non-compliance while conducting an experiment with Defense Department funding.
“Following a full review of the reported non-compliance, the IACUC has revoked Dr. Messereli (sic)’s ability to continue operating under the monitoring and management plan,” the letter says. “The IACUC received an appeal against this decision and rejected the appeal by a majority vote in a convened committee meeting.”
The USDA has the authority to regulate animal labs. Sanford Research’s self-reported letter to USDA is dated May 2, 2022.
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Sanford Health responded to the complaint Tuesday afternoon.
“Sanford Health is committed to providing quality healthcare to the patients it serves,” the statement said. it relates to medical courses, research and training.”
According to the Sanford staff biography, Messerli has a PhD in neuroscience from Perdue University. She previously taught biology at Bridgewater State University. Her research focus at Sanford is on molecule inhibitors in breast and brain cancer.
Stop animal exploitation Now received the letter at the request of the law on the freedom of information. The letter is opaque and offers no information about what experiment Messerli was conducting, nor about what species of animal.
Michael Budkie, a co-founder of the group, said it obtains about a thousand reports a year under FOIA from animal laboratory research. He said if the group sees five withdrawals of animal testing privileges in a thousand, that’s a lot, meaning Messerli’s withdrawal is a rare event.
That it happens twice is even rarer, he said.
“This is kind of a last resort,” he said.
He said Sanford’s report is also unusual in that it doesn’t include information about what experiments were conducted or on what type of animal. Those are additional reasons why the group has requested a USDA investigation.
“This report wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t a serious problem,” Budkie said.
The USDA did not immediately respond.