Harvard professor to head New England Primate Research Center
A scientist who does research on HIV has been appointed the interim director of Harvard Medical School’s primate research center.
In a letter sent to the staff of the New England Primate Research Center Monday afternoon, Dr. Jeffrey S. Flier, dean of the medical school, announced that Dr. R. Paul Johnson, an associate professor of medicine, would take over leadership of the troubled Southborough animal research facility, where four primate deaths in less than two years revealed gaps in basic animal care procedures.
“Over the past several months, enormous progress has been made at NEPRC, resulting from a comprehensive needs analysis and the implementation of an action plan designed to help ensure the health and welfare of the Center’s primates,” Flier wrote in an e-mail. “Paul has been an integral member of the team contribution to this transformation, and I am confident that through his ongoing leadership we will continue the rigorous and ongoing process of quality improvement at the Center, while fostering a culture of transparency.”
Johnson said in an interview that he has worked at the center for nearly two decades and hopes to continue to foster increased transparency and openness there as he takes the helm. Over the past several months, external reviewers have been doing an assessment of the center, and operating procedures have been revised and staff retraining has taken place, he said.
He said that leadership at the center have drafted a plan for a “quality control and quality assurance committee,” which would be comprised of staff from all levels of the center, including those who directly care for animals and those who conduct and design the research.
“As part of that, we want to capture and report and be able to have reports provided” not just for major incidents, Johnson said, but also “near misses and any concerns that might not rise to the level for report [to federal regulators], which will allow us to foster an open culture of reporting.”
Johnson takes over the position from Dr. William Chin, executive dean for research at the medical school.Carolyn Y. Johnson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @carolynyjohnson.
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