City attorney tells nonprofit to “refrain from making any further allegations”
SAN ANTONIO, Texas–(BUSINESS WIRE)–In response to significant public opposition to efforts by San Antonio Mayor Nirenberg and the City Council to rush $10 million in critical federal funds to a notorious primate experimentation facility, the city is telling critics to be silent. Yesterday, City Attorney Andy Segovia wrote to John J. Pippin, MD, FACC, director of academic affairs for the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which represents more than 17,000 doctors, regarding the group’s request that federal agencies investigate the planned $10 million award of federal funds to the Texas Biomedical Research Institute. Segovia stated that “the City is confident in its assessment of the Texas Biomed project’s eligibility for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding” but failed to provide any evidence in support of that assessment. In closing, Segovia told Dr. Pippin to “refrain from making any further allegations…”
“Efforts by elected officials to silence critics should upset everyone who believes in open government,” said Dr. Pippin. “The mayor and city council gave voters little more than a week to weigh in on this controversial award to a rich corporation, and now they’re trying to rush it through without any public discussion.”
On Monday, the Physicians Committee requested that the U.S. Department of the Treasury investigate the city’s effort to funnel public funding to Texas Biomed. In response, Rich Delmar, Treasury’s deputy inspector general, wrote that, if the city awards the money to Texas Biomed, his office “will have occasion to review such transfer and use, testing to the applicable standards found in statute and the Treasury Guidelines, and recommending remedies and action if warranted.”
In December, Texas Biomed withdrew its initial request for an $11 million municipal bond after significant opposition from voters over the corporation’s long history of neglect and abuse of animals. In addition, Texas Biomed’s reserves of $225 million show that taking $10 million from the city’s allotment of ARPA funds is unnecessary. City leaders only revealed their new plan to award the funds to Texas Biomed on Jan. 26—just 8 days before the Council’s upcoming Feb. 3 vote on the matter.
In its complaint, the Physicians Committee argues that Texas Biomed does not qualify for such funding and has even profited during the pandemic, writing that the City Council is allowing “significant political connections” to misdirect millions of dollars “in federal COVID-19 aid, to which ARPA rightfully entitles small businesses, government employees, social service organizations, and struggling families.”
The Physicians Committee also installed a billboard directed at the City Council that states, “San Antonio City Council: REJECT $10 Million for Texas Biomed! Support modern science, not animal cruelty!” The billboard, which features an image of a caged monkey across a black background, is located on I-10 and is visible to traffic headed north, on the northeast side of the interstate, just before it crosses N. Colorado Street.
Texas Biomed has claimed that it must expand its facilities because of a “shortage” of nonhuman primates. The Physicians Committee points out that such an expansion would do nothing to advance human medicine or to aid in the discovery of new therapeutics for people suffering from disease. In addition, according to records filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as of 2020, Texas Biomed “held” 1,939 nonhuman primates who were “not yet used,” revealing that there is no such “shortage.”
The use of nonhuman primates in research is widely known to be costly, time-consuming, and largely ineffective in improving human health. National Institutes of Health researchers even concluded that studies on previous coronaviruses had been largely unsuccessful “in part because of difficulties in developing animal models that provide consistent and reproducible results.”
For a copy of Segovia’s letter, the complaint, or to see the billboard, please contact Reina Pohl at 202-527-7326 or [email protected].
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.
Reina Pohl, 202-527-7326, [email protected]