"It took far too long for a consensus to be reached that chimps were not useful in HIV/AIDS research. All the while, chimps were suffering in labs and precious research dollars were being wasted, while people were waiting for progress," said Jarrod Bailey, Ph.D., a geneticist and science director for NEAVS. The organization has made the point that the longer researchers wait to find and implement alternative models, the longer it will take to establish progress in research that will improve human health in a significant way. Continuing to use a model that has limited potential is to handicap the research these animals have been suffering for in the first place.
Hepatitis C is another area that the IOM committee did not come down firmly against. Aside from humans, chimps are the only species that can be infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) – but infected chimps do not develop cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer the way humans do. The report says that chimpanzees are not necessary for the development of antiviral drugs for the treatment of HCV, or for therapeutic vaccines for already-infected people, but reached no definitive conclusion on the development of a prophylactic vaccine.
Exactly half of the committee felt that chimps are not necessary for vaccine research, while the other half was uncertain about human clinical trials and whether research on chimps "would provide otherwise unattainable information on the safety of candidate vaccines." But in-vitro testing on human cell cultures and tissues has proved an effective alternative research model. Essentially, this involves testing the toxicity of substances on living cells in a petri dish: It's a faster testing method than animals are able to provide, it's more accurate because it uses culture systems of human cells, and it has already proved effective for some vaccine studies.