PCRM denied access to research

Ohio Supreme Court says university does not have to hand over spinal cord injury training videos to animal rights group

By | March 20, 2006

The Ohio State Supreme Court last week rejected a suit by an animal rights group demanding videotapes and other materials from a Federally funded program that teaches scientists how to induce and study spinal cord injuries in laboratory rodents. The court ruled that the materials used in Ohio State University College of Medicine?s training program were research-related intellectual property exempt from public disclosure. ?We considered this to be a very, very serious and important case because it amounted to whether or not an outside entity could have access to unpublished data from a researcher?s project,? said OSU spokesman Earl Holland. ?If the court had allowed that, it could have been extrapolated into a whole host of other areas of research, with material not being safeguarded as intellectual property,? he told The Scientist. In April 2005, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a national nonprofit group that opposes the use of live animals in research, asked the court to compel release of photographs, videos, and other materials from OSU?s training program, a three-week course sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. PCRM argued that the records had been publicly released because OSU had previously loaned some materials to scientists and researcher trainees, and shown other records at medical conferences. But the court agreed with OSU that these disclosures were research-related and had been tightly restricted. ?We were extremely disappointed that the [Ohio] Supreme Court decided to allow OSU to keep the records secret,? PCRM associate general counsel Dan Kinburn told The Scientist. ?We were looking for pictures of rats and mice that were injured primarily to educate the public about the pain and suffering that these animals endure.? Under a contract from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, OSU since 2003 has been running an annual course to train researchers to induce and study microscopic spinal cord injuries in laboratory rodents. The animals are anesthetized and recover quickly, the university claims, with a 98% survival rate. NIH?s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) last year investigated the training program after animal rights groups targeted it, and found no problems. The state supreme court ruling ?should ease scientists? concerns that their research might be compromised by disclosure of data in areas of controversial biomedical research,? Doug Kniss, OSU?s senior associate vice president for research, said in a statement. Ted Agres Links within this article State ex rel. Physicians Commt. for Responsible Medicine v. Ohio State Univ. Bd. of Trustees, 108 Ohio St.3d 288, 2006-Ohio-903. G. Hellekant, ?How regulation hamstrings animal research,? The Scientist, February 21, 2006. PCRM OSU training program L. Netter, ?UK rules against animal rights group,? The Scientist, December 7, 2005. ?Ohio State University reply to concerns raised over its NIH-funded spinal cord injury training program,? OSU. NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare ?Federal NIH office clears Ohio State research program, finds no problem with animal treatment in spinal project,? OSU. ?Ohio supreme court supports OSU in animal rights lawsuit,? OSU.

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