Emorys Yerkes Center has been renamed the Yerkes National
Primate Research Center, in recognition of its involvement with
and impact on research programs throughout the United States and
The name change was made in accordance with a recent decision of
the National Center for Research Resources, part of the National
Institutes of Health, to redesignate all eight federally funded
Regional Primate Research Centers as National Primate Research Centers
The RPRC system was created by Congress in 1960 to address the
critical need for special facilities in which scientists could conduct
multidisciplinary behavioral and biomedical research with nonhuman
primates. That year, Yerkes was designated as an RPRC, four years
after its purchase by Emory from Yale University. The designation
translated into federal funding that covered operating costs.
This federal support continues today in the form of an NIH base
grant awarded at five-year intervals via a competitive renewal process.
The base grant now represents a fraction of Yerkes total $36
million grant portfolio, which has tripled in size since 1998. Within
the University, Yerkes research funding ranks second behind
the School of Medicine.
In return for the federal dollars they receive, the NPRCs bear
the dual mandate of providing optimal research environments for
their own scientific faculty and serving as resources for collaborative
investigators from other institutions. To that end, Yerkes has some
85 affiliate and collaborative faculty from the School of Medicine
and the University as well as outside Emory, and the center provides
research services to scientists representing 65 research institutions
throughout the country and the world.
The change from regional to National Primate Research Center
underscores the point that all of us involved in every aspect of
research, whether it is basic research or applied clinical research,
serve not just our local community but the entire nation with regard
to our health priorities, said Yerkes Director Stuart Zola.
Everyone who works at Yerkes and in the Woodruff Health Sciences
Center has contributed to this recognition and to our overall mission
of making people healthy.
Founded in 1929 by Yale psychobiologist Robert Yerkes, the center
once housed more than two dozen different species of nonhuman primates,
including all five species of great apes: gorillas, orangutans,
gibbons, bonobos and chimpanzees. As the need for nonhuman primate
models in biomedical research grew, Yerkes narrowed the diversity
of its colony to focus its resources on breeding and housing larger
numbers of the animals most commonly used in research, such as rhesus
Today, Yerkes houses roughly 3,000 nonhuman primates representing
eight species. Of the apes, only the chimpanzees remain, the other
great apes having been donated to zoological parks. About 1,900
nonhuman primates live at the 117-acre Field Station in Lawrenceville,
Ga., while another 1,100 primates and 2,500 rodents are housed at
the Main Station on the main Emory campus.
With these animals, Yerkes scientists are developing vaccines for
AIDS, malaria and other infectious diseases, and treatments for
cocaine addiction, Parkinsons and cardiovascular diseases.
Other research programs focus on age-related cognitive decline,
childhood visual defects, organ transplant rejection and the social
behaviors of primates.
The center has four scientific divisions: microbiology and immunology,
neuroscience, psychobiology, and visual science. In addition, Yerkes
is home to the Vaccine Research Center and the Living Links Center,
as well as parts of the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience and the
Center for AIDS Research at Emory. Yerkes scientific faculty
totals about 180 researchers, including 24 core faculty scientists
plus affiliate and collaborative faculty and research associates.
About 100 graduate and undergraduate students also participate in
research and education programs at the Center.
The other seven NPRCs are located in Beaverton, Ore.; Davis, Calif.;
Madison, Wis.; Covington, La.; San Antonio; Seattle; and Southborough,