February 18, 2020 | From Judicial Watch
Judicial Watch announced it received 676 pages of records from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) showing that the agency paid thousands of dollars to a California-based firm to purchase organs from aborted human fetuses to create “humanized mice” for HIV research.
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The records show that NIH paid at least $18,100 between December 2016 and August 2018 to Advanced Bioscience Resources (ABR) for livers and thymuses from second trimester aborted fetuses. They include at least 26 such purchases from ABR by Dr. Kim Hasenkrug, senior investigator at the NIH lab in Hamilton, Montana.
Purchase orders associated with the transactions state: “These tissues, liver and thymus, are required [by] Ron Messer for ongoing studies of HIV in the Hasenkrug Lab. Our mice will be ready for reconstitution soon.”
Beginning with a December 21, 2016, payment to ABR and running through April 2018, the records show that a fetal liver and thymus set costs $680, and payment was due upon receipt. On May 23, 2018, the cost increased to $750.
The records also include “Tissue Acquisition Invoices” and sales receipts issued by ABR. Payment was made by credit card.
Judicial Watch received the records through a March 2019 lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services for all contracts and related documentation between the FDA and Advanced Bioscience Resources (ABR) for the provision of human fetal tissue to be used in humanized mice research (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department Health and Human Services (No. 1:19-cv-00876)).
ABR has been the subject of criminal referrals from House and Senate committees investigating whether Planned Parenthood or any other entity was illegally profiting from the handling of fetal tissue from aborted babies.
Federal law regulates the purchase and acceptance of human fetal tissue for research purposes. It is unlawful to knowingly transfer fetal tissue for profit. According to the records, agency officials concluded in March 2018 that: “Federal regulations for the protection of human subjects do not apply to above named activity.”
The records include a November 2009 “Request for Review of Research Activity Involving Human Subjects” with the protocol title “Study of HIV infection and vaccine protection in mice reconstituted with a human immune system” that describes the development of a “cohort” of humanized mice using human fetal tissue:
Recent reports have demonstrated that immunodeficient mice reconstituted with 17-19 week old human fetal tissue develop a human immune system and are susceptible to HIV infection and disease. The goal of this project proposal is to create such humanized mice to study the role of immune cell subsets and virus-neutralizing antibodies in vaccine protection. The experiments will entail the development of a cohort of mice all reconstituted with the same human cells so as to be histocompatible. This will require transplantation of the mice with 1 mm3 pieces of fetal thymus as well as reconstitution with stem cells isolated from cord blood and liver. Once the humanized mice have been established some will be vaccinated to prime distinct subsets of immune cells. Immune cell subsets from vaccinated mice will be adoptively transferred into naive mice, which will then be infected with HIV to test the antiviral activity of the immune cells. The goal of these experiments is to establish correlates of immunity against HIV.
In an “Overview” provided by Advanced Bioscience Resources, the firm describes itself as a “non-profit corporate foundation” which is “devoted to providing services in connection with the procurement of human organs and tissues for medical and scientific research.”
In Hasenkrug’s November 2009 “Request for Review of Research Activity Involving Human Subjects” he is asked: “Where are the subjects of this research activity located?” Hasenkrug answers: “The material for this research is obtained from natural or induced abortions from females in California.” Another question is: “Has the research activity that you are proposing in this form been approved by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) elsewhere?” Hasenkrug answers: “No IRB review of the research activity … has taken place.”
The records include a November 2009 email from the deputy director of the Office of Human Subject Research (OHSR) in Bethesda, MD, to Hasenkrug at the NIH lab, approving his research project and instructing him: “Provide documentation that you will not seek the identity of the subjects who have provided the samples you will receive as well as documentation from ABR that under no circumstances will the identity or link to the identifiers of the subjects be released to you.” The signature block concluding the email includes the phrase: “The NIH is committed to maintaining the highest stands for the protection of human subjects.”
(Excerpt from Judicial Watch.)