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Primate Center to cut 45 jobs; First of two rounds of layoffs to close site.

Byline: Elaine Thompson

SOUTHBORO -- About 45 employees at Harvard Medical School's New England Primate Research Center are scheduled to be laid off next month, in the first round of significant job eliminations at the facility.

Harvard Medical School representatives announced about 18 months ago that operations at the center would wind down and it would close by 2015. The facility had come under fire by animal rights groups that protested outside the facility on several occasions and the U.S. Department of Agriculture after several monkeys died between June 2010 and February 2012 because of inadequate care.

When the closing was announced, HMS officials would not comment on whether the decision had anything to do with pressure by groups to shut down the facility. The school said the decision was partly based on the difficult climate for obtaining external funding for research and the "need to use its resources in the most effective manner across all of its missions ...''

Kim Van Savage, associate director for human resources at HMS, said in an Oct. 1 letter to the statewide rapid response manager at the state Division of Career Services, that the full closure date is Aug. 31, 2015. She said about 45 employees were to be notified the week of Oct. 21 that they would be laid off "on or after Jan. 4, 2015.'' She said the 60-day layoff notice is consistent with Harvard University's policy.

"At this time, we expect that a second round of notifications will take place in or about January of 2015. Again, employees will be given at least 60 days of notice of position elimination, with an expected effective date in March. Approximately 50 employees are anticipated to be separated from employment in this time frame,'' Ms. Van Savage wrote. She said a few employees will remain at the center to conduct final closeout activities "through July or August of 2015.''

The school has said that more than 2,000 primates would either be moved to other sites, including the other national primate research centers or be managed at the Southboro facility.

The NEPRC was established by Congress in 1962 and is one of eight such centers in the country. According to its website, some of the important biomedical accomplishments made possible by research with nonhuman primates at the NEPRC includes the first unambiguous evidence that AIDS is caused by a virus and original demonstration that vaccine protection against AIDS is possible. Other accomplishments involved inflammatory bowel disease, sickle cell anemia and treatment of and techniques for early diagnosis of Parkinson's disease,

The sprawling campus is on 89 acres on Pine Hill Drive; and on 42 acres in Marlboro, off Parmenter Road near Callahan State Park. The Southboro portion with several buildings, is assessed at $22.5 million. The Marlboro property is only land and is valued at about $431,000.

Contact Elaine Thompson at Follow her on Twitter @EThompsonTG

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Title Annotation:Business
Author:Thompson, Elaine
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Dec 11, 2014
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