Rubio Encourages NIH to Sustain Innovation Despite Chinese Monkey Shortage

Rubio Encourages NIH to Sustain Innovation Despite Chinese Monkey Shortage

Mateo Guillamont
Mateo Guillamont
August 15, 2023

Florida Senator Marco Rubio has requested transparency from the National Institute of Health (NIH) regarding its response to the current nonhuman primate shortage.

United States medical research and innovation rely on monkey testing for advancing technology for disease prevention and treatment. The US previously chiefly imported monkeys from China. 

However, supply-side challenges driven by China’s diminishing monkey exports since COVID has recently curtailed medical innovators’ access to the needed primates. 

In response, Senator Rubio sent a letter to the NIH addressing the matter. Rubio underscored how monkeys are “more useful for comparing how certain drugs and diseases impact humans, when compared to other animals such as mice or dogs.”

As such, Rubio expressed concern regarding how the monkey shortage could mean “important innovation will come to a costly halt.”


The US had attempted to offset Chinese import losses by increasing business with Cambodian monkey suppliers. However reports of Illegal monkey trafficking in Cambodia halted US imports of Cambodian monkeys.  

Aside from imports, the US also maintains its own supply of lab-testable monkeys. Yet, Rubio explained how the US has nonetheless “relied on foreign imports of the animals to maintain the necessary pace for innovation.”

Therefore, Rubio asked the NIH to explain if current monkey populations are sufficient for continued research and, if not, what alternative research routes are being investigated. 

Rubio also asked if “the NIH intends to expand its investment and use of testing procedures that do not use nonhuman primates?”

It is unclear what “testing procedures” excluding nonhuman primate use are being referred to by Rubio.

Notwithstanding the NIHs plans, reports claim recent medical innovations, including Organs-on-Chips, are decreasing researcher’s dependence on animal testing for drug efficacy inquiries. 


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Mateo Guillamont

Mateo Guillamont

Mateo is a Miami-based political reporter covering national and local politics

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