The National Institutes of Health (NIH) paid nearly $20,000 to a California-based firm to purchase organs from aborted human fetuses for a program to create "humanized mice" for HIV research, according to Judicial Watch.
The discovery was made after the conservative watchdog group received 676 pages of records as part of a March 2019 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, which revealed that NIH paid at least $18,100 between December 2016 and August 2018 to Alameda-based Advanced Bioscience Resources (ABR) for at least 26 purchases of livers and thymuses from fetuses aborted in their second trimester. The orders were placed by Dr. Kim Hasenkrug, senior investigator at the NIH lab in Hamilton, Montana.
Of note, ABR has been the subject of criminal referrals from House and Senate committees investigating whether Planned Parenthood or any other group was illegally profiting from aborted babies.
Purchase orders associated with the transactions state: “These tissues, liver and thymus, are required [by] Ron Messer for ongoing studies of HIV in the Hasenkrug Lab. Our mice will be ready for reconstitution soon.”
Beginning with a December 21, 2016, payment to ABR and running through April 2018, the records show that a fetal liver and thymus set costs $680, and payment was due upon receipt. On May 23, 2018, the cost increased to $750. -Judicial Watch
In addition, the records indicate "Tissue Acquisition Invoices" and sales receipts for credit card purchases.
The lawsuit, (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department Health and Human Services (No. 1:19-cv-00876)), calls for the HHS contracts and related documentation between the FDA and ABR for the purchase of human fetal tissue for use in humanized mice research.
Judicial Watch notes that federal law prohibits the transfer of fetal tissue for profit, with agency officials concluding in March, 2018 that "Federal regulations for the protection of human subjects do not apply to above named activity."
The records include a November 2009 “Request for Review of Research Activity Involving Human Subjects” with the protocol title “Study of HIV infection and vaccine protection in mice reconstituted with a human immune system” that describes the development of a “cohort” of humanized mice using human fetal tissue:
Recent reports have demonstrated that immunodeficient mice reconstituted with 17-19 week old human fetal tissue develop a human immune system and are susceptible to HIV infection and disease. The goal of this project proposal is to create such humanized mice to study the role of immune cell subsets and virus-neutralizing antibodies in vaccine protection. The experiments will entail the development of a cohort of mice all reconstituted with the same human cells so as to be histocompatible. This will require transplantation of the mice with 1 mm3 pieces of fetal thymus as well as reconstitution with stem cells isolated from cord blood and liver. Once the humanized mice have been established some will be vaccinated to prime distinct subsets of immune cells. Immune cell subsets from vaccinated mice will be adoptively transferred into naive mice, which will then be infected with HIV to test the antiviral activity of the immune cells. The goal of these experiments is to establish correlates of immunity against HIV.
In an “Overview” provided by Advanced Bioscience Resources, the firm describes itself as a “non-profit corporate foundation” which is “devoted to providing services in connection with the procurement of human organs and tissues for medical and scientific research.”
In Hasenkrug’s November 2009 “Request for Review of Research Activity Involving Human Subjects” he is asked: “Where are the subjects of this research activity located?” Hasenkrug answers: “The material for this research is obtained from natural or induced abortions from females in California.” Another question is: “Has the research activity that you are proposing in this form been approved by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) elsewhere?” Hasenkrug answers: “No IRB review of the research activity … has taken place.”
Read the rest of the report, including individual invoices for fetal organs, here.