(CNSNews.com) - The National Institutes of Health says the federal government has not yet decided whether to extend a multi-million-dollar contract with the University of California, San Francisco that requires the university to “obtain human fetal tissue” from aborted babies to use in creating what the federal contract calls “humanized mice.”
Under its current terms, the “Humanized Mouse Models for HIV Therapeutics Development” contract is set to expire on Dec. 5—unless the government chooses to extend it.
“There has been no final decision on the contract extension,” NIH told CNSNews.com on Wednesday, Nov. 14, in response to an inquiry CNSNews.com made on Friday, Nov. 9.
The NIH first signed this contract with UCSF for a one-year period that began on Dec. 6, 2013. However, the contract includes a provision that allows the government the option to renew it on an annual basis for up to six additional years. So far, the government has opted four times to extend the contract for an additional year.
According to information posted by the General Services Administration on the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS), the current option on the contract with UCSF was signed by the NIH on Nov. 30, 2017. It covered the year that started on Dec. 6, 2017 and will end on Dec. 5, 2018.
The NIH says that, so far, the federal government has paid UCSF $9,554,796 for this humanized mouse contract. If the government picks up the last two option years, the contract will pay UCSF a total of $13,799,501.
Overall, according to estimates published by NIH, the agency spent $103 million on research involving human fetal tissue in fiscal 2018 and will spend $95 million in fiscal 2019, which started on Oct. 1.
As CNSNews.com reported on Oct. 17, 2018, the NIH solicitation for this contract that was awarded to UCSF expressly stated that one of the “major functions of the contract” would be to “obtain human fetal tissue.”
The solicitation, which was published on Dec. 31, 2012, indicated that the contractor would be required to use this tissue to create two types of “humanized mice.” Both types, the solicitation said, would need to be “engrafted with human fetal liver and thymus tissue.”
The solicitation also indicated that each month the contractor would be required to make two “cohorts” of humanized mice, including one cohort of each of type.
One of these cohorts would consist of “up to 50” mice and the other would consist of “up to 40.” But each cohort, the solicitation said, would need to be made with liver and thymus taken from a single fetal donor.
The “Humanized Mouse Models for HIV Therapeutics Development” contract, the 2012 solicitation said, would follow up on a then-expiring contract the NIH had with UCSF, which was called the “Tissue Based Small Animal Model for HIV Drug Discovery.” Under that earlier contract, the federal government had been paying UCSF to make the first type of humanized mouse, the “SCID-hu Thy/Liv model.”
“The purpose of this solicitation is to recompete an existing contract for small animal models that can be used to evaluate potential therapeutics for HIV-1 infection,” the solicitation said.
“The current contract was awarded in 2006 to the University of California, San Francisco (contract number HHSN266200700002C) and will expired in December, 2013,” it said.
“The animal model being used is an immunodeficient mouse engrafted with human fetal thymus and liver (severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID)-hu Thy/Liv) and infected with well-characterized isolates of HIV-1,” it said.
“This solicitation is seeking proposals for the SCID-hu Thy/Liv model and for a second humanized mouse model,” it said. “The second mouse model will consist of immunodeficient mice engrafted with human fetal thymus and liver tissue and other cells and/or tissues, such that the model (or mice) has the following characteristics: can be infected by the systemic or mucosal routes, reconstitutes gut-associated and other lymphoid tissues, and develops viremia and disseminated infection in engrafted human tissue.”
“In summary,” it said, “the present solicitation is for the SCID-hu Thy/Liv model and for an additional humanized mouse model.”
In 2007, the UCSF researcher who has been the principal investigator for both the past and current contract, delivered a presentation on the SCID-hu Thy/Liv mouse at an NIH workshop on “new humanized rodent models.” In January 2008, AIDS Research and Therapy published a summary of the presentations made at this NIH workshop. It said the UCSF researcher described the SCID-hu Thy/Liv mouse as being constructed with “[h]uman fetal liver and thymus (20-24 g.w.).”
On Feb. 27, 2017, the journal Pathogens published an article co-authored by the principal investigator and other UCSF researchers in which they described research funded by the current contract.
In this research, the researchers created what they called “SCID-hu gut mice” and the article described how they created them.
“Fetal gut tissues (18-24 g.w.) were obtained from women with normal pregnancies before elective termination for nonmedical reasons with informed consent according to local, state, and federal regulations,” the Pathogen article stated.
“Single intact segments of human fetal intestine (2-3 cm in length) were transplanted subcutaneously on the back of 6-8-week-old male C.B17 scid mice,” it said.
On Nov. 9, CNSNews.com sent an inquiry to HHS—with copies sent to NIH and the White House—asking whether HHS intends to extend this contract with UCSF for another year past its current Dec. 5 expiration date.
CNSNews.com’s questions were:
--“Does HHS intend to exercise its option to extend the Humanized Mouse Models for HIV Therapeutics Development contract for another year? Yes or no?
--“If HHS does intend to extend this contract for another year, how much will the NIH pay UCSF in that additional year to continue making humanized mice with human fetal tissue taken from aborted babies?
--“If HHS does intend to extend this contract for another year, why does HHS believe it is morally justified to require U.S. taxpayers to fund a contract that requires a state university to ‘obtain human fetal tissue’ from aborted babies and transplant that tissue into mice?”
On Nov. 14, NIH responded: “There has been no final decision on the contract extension.”