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OSU's plans to study primates on hold

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) -- Rising costs tied to a building renovation have prompted Oklahoma State University officials to delay their plans to bring about a dozen macaque monkeys to campus for research purposes.

The university had planned to turn a building next to the Oklahoma Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory into a primate research center. But the project became unfeasible, said Joe Alexander, dean of OSU's College of Veterinary Medicine.

"It just got to be cost prohibitive," he said Wednesday. "We just weren't able to meet the specifications the federal government has for keeping primates. We're not going to do anything we can't do right."

OSU also was concerned about security at the building, he said.

The macaque monkeys, specifically bred for research, were to arrive in January. Delivery was delayed because changing regulations for primate research centers required different equipment and procedures, Alexander said.

"The list just kept getting longer instead of shorter," he said.

Plans now are to build a $3.5 million center that would be more secure from groups and students opposed to research using animals. Protests outside research facilities and break-ins of laboratories have occurred on other campuses.

"What we'll try to do is to select an architectural service that will help us locate the appropriate site so that it can both be secure and not near people," Alexander said. "Perception and reality are pretty close together. The perception was that something might get out even though there was never a chance of that. I don't want people to have to worry about it.

"This does give us the time to catch our breath and see where we want to be with it."

OSU has about $2 million raised for the center, including a recent $1 million gift from the Presbyterian Health Foundation in Oklahoma City.

Primate-based research is ongoing and OSU is extending its agreement with Harvard University to use monkeys kept at the New England Primate Center in Boston.

"We'll ship the materials to them and they'll put them in the monkeys there," Alexander said.
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