Wake Forest CTSI Nonhuman Primate Signature Program

Wake Forest CTSI Nonhuman Primate Signature Program

Kylie Kavanagh, Matthew J. Jorgensen, J. Mark Cline, D. McClain

The goal of Wake Forest (WF) Nonhuman Primate (NHP) Signature Program is to accelerate translational research by providing access to the ultimate translational animal model. NHP have served as an extremely successful preclinical platform that has allowed the bidirectional flow of knowledge from scientists to clinicians and back to scientists in the academic Learning Health System. Monkey studies have a special role bridging gaps in knowledge, e.g. regarding FDA-required pharmaceutical target evaluation, proof of concept studies, or method development. Moreover, NHP have significant advantages over other animal models in their fidelity to human physiology and thus offer an important route for accelerating the translation of research findings to clinical trials and practice. Our program aims to disseminate our resources and knowledge to the CTSA research community though formal symposia and workshops, and being accessible for all enquiries through a single-stream contact method (primates@wakehealth.edu). We fund feasibility studies, and provide on-site study facilitations to help new investigators overcome the barriers inherent to using non-human primates. We have had resounding success across the network through these demonstration projects, and they have showcased the specialized research facilities, services, and expertise that Wake Forest’s CTSA is instrumental in supporting and developing. Our program centers on 2 unique non-human primate resources. The largest NHP resource is the Vervet Research Colony. These animals are unique among non-human primate resources available in that they have data collected from birth until their natural death and these animals at the extremes of aging and their data/tissues are readily available for use by investigators. Over the past five years, the colony has provided 500 monkeys with >80% to extramural users. Over the past grant period, 23% of requests for monkey resources went to scientists at other CTSA hubs to study infectious, cardiovascular, metabolic, neurologic, and other diseases. Its large number of well-characterized females makes the resource especially well-suited for a focus on women’s health, specifically sex differences in the development of heart disease and related conditions. The resource also contributes to another underserved area, the development and testing of therapies for pediatric populations, through a continuously staffed neonatal nursery, one of only three in the United States. Every animal in the colony has had their whole genome sequenced by the Washington University Sequencing Center and the pedigreed core enables colony-wide screening, epidemiologic and genomic investigations, and systems biology approaches. Wake Forest also hosts the Non-human primate Radiation Survivor Cohort: This is a truly unique NIAID supported colony of >200 rhesus macaques that maintained to understand the health consequences of radiation exposure. These animals demonstrate accelerated aging, in particular development of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic pulmonary disease, neoplasia, brain lesions, and immune deficiencies. The cohort has in-depth phenotyping conducted annually. In addition, there is a tissue and data repository available for research. Radiation from medical imaging and technology, space travel, accidental and malicious exposures will increase in our future populations, having these NHPs that reflect relevant physiology and available for study is a forward-thinking and a one-of-kind research opportunity for scientists that complements the naturally aging vervet monkey model. Wake Forest proudly offers the highest levels of animal welfare, and is committed to the ethical use of these non-human primate resources. We aim to achieve translational excellence through scientific partnerships with outside investigators and Wake Forest knowledge and expertise.

Director, Clinical & Translation Science Institute