Miles J. Novy was targeted by apparent animal rights activists on December 6, 2007. Two of his cars were spray-painted; one with “ALF,” and the other with “sadist.”
Afterwards, Dr. Norka Ruiz Bravo, Deputy Director for Extramural Research, National Institutes of Health, issued an official statement calling this “terrorism” and defending Novy’s research.
This essay isn’t about whether or not vandalism should be redefined as terrorism, but instead looks at some of the claims made by Bravo. (I titled it Miles J. Novy because Dr. Bravo's statement is primarily about him and his research.)
Although the process of labor is better known in species such as the sheep and rodent, what controls the initiation of labor in the human is still unclear. To better understand what occurs in the human, Dr. Novy's research uses monkeys, an animal model closer to that of the human.This is a very odd statement, and frankly, I have no idea how one might go about validating it. I suspect it’s little more than gibberish. A very large body of knowledge surrounds the process of labor in humans. PubMed returns 1,138 citations for the query “labor AND sheep” and 70,101 for “labor AND human.”
Dr. Novy's research is fundamentally important to help prevent early preterm delivery that can result in devastating effects on newborn children and their quality of life in later years.This reeks of fanaticism. No research can be fairly claimed to be fundamentally important prospectively. One can claim after the fact that some discovery was fundamentally important, but claims regarding on-going research must always be couched in could or might or hopefully.
His current research involves preventing one of the major causes of premature birth: infections associated with preterm labor.His “current research” has been underway for least 14 years at the time of this writing. (An experimental model for intraamniotic infection and preterm labor in rhesus monkeys. Gravett MG, Witkin SS, Haluska GJ, Edwards JL, Cook MJ, Novy MJ. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1994.) Interestingly, to me at least, is the fact that in this, his first paper on infections associated with preterm labor, he writes as if he has made a possible discovery:
Our data provide evidence for a cause-and-effect relationship between intraamniotic infection and preterm labor and support the utility of measuring interleukin-6 or other cytokines in the diagnosis of intraamniotic infection.But years before Novy’s “discovery” researchers at Yale, studying human pregnancy, wrote:
These studies implicate IL-6 in the host response to intrauterine infection and suggest that evaluation of AF IL-6 levels may have diagnostic and prognostic value in the management of women in preterm labor.” (Amniotic fluid interleukin 6 in preterm labor. Association with infection. Romero R, Avila C, Santhanam U, Sehgal PB. J Clin Invest. 1990.)Dr. Bravo:
The importance of this research cannot be underestimated. Premature birth is a serious public health problem.This is fallacious. Citing the seriousness of a problem fails to justify any and every claim of possible remedy. In fact, in spite of Novy’s long work in this area, Dr. Bravo points out that:
Approximately 12% of all babies are born premature with 2 % of all babies, or approximately 100,000 babies, being born very premature. Regrettably, these very premature babies are associated with the highest mortality and morbidity rates. Ten percent of these babies will die. Fifteen percent of these babies with have serious permanent disabilities such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation, deafness or blindness. Fifty percent of these infants will have a moderate learning disability and 7 % with have a behavioral problem. Besides its human toll, the financial toll for total hospital stays for premature infants is about $15 billion dollars per year and represents approximately half of all infant hospital stays. Furthermore, the economic burden does not end after hospital discharge for those with a disability.By this measure, Novy’s work seems to have failed quite miserably.
NIH-supported scientists like Dr. Novy are accountable for protecting the welfare of animals in research from the time they develop their first research plans to the time the research is completed.This bit of pandering isn’t even very accurate. USDA has reported that the oversight system cited by Dr. Bravo is largely a failure, and the only blinded peer reviewed evaluation of the system has deemed it no more reliable than the flip of a coin.
Animals are critical to the acceleration of biomedical discovery of medicines, therapies, and cures — threats to research with animals threaten the health of the nation.This is more fanaticism mixed with a good dose of voodoo. Apparently, some magic occurs by the very act of vivisection -- some bit of magic that maintains the “health of the nation.” If we stop torturing animals in laboratories the sun may not rise.
See too: Miles Novy Targeted for Abusing, Killing Pregnant Primates
Novy's "unanesthetized chronically catheterized maternal-fetal preparations":