The California National Primate Research Center at the University of California, Davis, has been awarded $33.2 million over three years from the National Institutes of Health.
The continuation of the base grant from the NIH Office of Research Infrastructure Programs signifies ongoing support for the CNPRC, an international leader in biomedical research with nonhuman primates. Funding from the NIH pays for the infrastructure and basic functions of the center, including core research facilities and scientists, and administrative functions.
“This award from NIH represents a huge vote of confidence in the CNPRC faculty and staff, who conduct research that is critical to human health while managing a large colony of nonhuman primates in an exemplary and humane manner. The CNPRC is a gem in the crown of the University of California, and this award cements UC Davis’s role as a leader in translational research,” said Harris Lewin, vice chancellor for research.
The CNPRC is one of seven primate research centers supported by the NIH. Collectively, these centers provide unique resources for investigators studying human health and disease, offering the opportunity to study potential cures, treatments, and preventive measures in nonhuman primate models that most closely resemble human responses.
This unique program is one of the largest national primate research centers and sets UC Davis apart from other universities for its vast animal research capabilities and close relationship with both the UC Davis School of Medicine and School of Veterinary Medicine.
Research performed at the CNPRC provides necessary information before proceeding to clinical trials in humans, leading to new drugs and therapies that benefit human health and quality of life. For example, work at the CNPRC has led to advances in the treatment and understanding of HIV/AIDS, lung diseases, autism, and how environmental pollutants can affect everything from lung health and immunity to reproduction.
The center is comprised of four research units that focus on a mission to improve human and animal health and quality of life:
Brain, Mind & Behavior
This team of investigators specializes in research on sociality, temperament, and development with a lifespan approach. Recent research findings have found a better understanding of the biology of autism, a naturally occurring model of loneliness, and a link between a mother’s immunity and brain inflammation.
Scientists in this unit look at a wide range of viral and bacterial pathogens, vaccine and drug interventions, and mechanisms of host-microbe interactions. They are intensely involved in studies directly related to HIV prevention, treatment, and vaccine development. Drug therapies used to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to infant were developed at the CNPRC in nonhuman primate models and are now being successfully used in many human populations.
More recent findings suggest that the early stages of gut inflammation and damage from HIV can be intervened by targeted probiotic bacteria. Additional diseases under the microscope are human cytomegalovirus and meningococcal disease.
Reproductive Sciences and Regenerative Medicine
Collaborative studies in this area have focused on healthy aging, the menopausal transition, regenerative medicine and the impact of environmental agents on reproduction. More recent findings have provided an understanding of pre-term labor due to chorioamnionitis, helped better predict embryo success with in vitro fertilization and linked sugar consumption to disrupted ovarian function.
The CNPRC is the only national primate research center with a scientific unit focused on pulmonary diseases. The CNPRC Respiratory Disease Center, a state-of-the-art wet lab and research facility, opened in 2014. Examples of work in this area include studying the effects of environmental tobacco smoke on lung development and immune function, influenza, and COPD.
Most recently, CNPRC core scientist Kent Pinkerton published a review of women’s lung health in relation to climate change. “Our research represents highly innovative techniques to address questions of health status in low- and middle-income countries,” said Pinkerton. “I strongly believe the approach we are taking with this research will address questions in our own backyard as well.”
The CNPRC has a reputation for excellence in animal care and work done there adheres to the oversight and regulations of multiple groups, including the UC Davis Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.