Covance new animal-testing plant still drawing controversy

By Emilie Reymond

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Covance, Animal testing

Covance is again at the centre of controversy as opponents of the contract research organisation (CRO) filed a lawsuit against a city in Arizona, aimed at stopping the firm from building a new drug-testing facility there.

The lawsuit alleges that Chandler city officials violated the Arizona Open Meeting Act and city ordinances in allowing Covance to build in the Chandler Airpark. Covance broke ground on the 300,000-square-foot site last month but this latest incident could jeopardise the smooth continuation of the site construction as the lawsuit asked the court to void the building permit and the zoning for the facility. The plaintiffs are seven local residents who live within a mile of the construction site and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) - one of the groups that have been campaigning to shoo Covance away from Chandler since those plans were made public two years ago. The lawsuit alleges that city officials took part in non-public meetings about Covance in which they discussed the company's plan to build its new facility on the rezoned Airpark property instead of the initial building site. According to the lawsuit, the city of Chandler also allegedly failed to give a proper notice of the planning and zoning commission public hearing held on 19 July last year, and the city council's introduction and final hearings, which took place on 27 July and 10 August the same year. Furthermore, it alleges that the approval of the building permit by the city violated its own zoning ordinance because it "appears that a huge percentage of Covance's facility will be devoted to the operation of a kennel/veterinarian clinic", said PCRM last week. Covance failed to respond to requests from asking for comments. This is the latest episode in a long-lasting saga for Covance and its Chandler project. The firm completed the acquisition of the land in Chandler Airpark last December and formed a community advisory panel aimed at discussing and reviewing "matters of importance to the Chandler community, communicate with Covance and citizens, and track Covance's commitment to the public". But the company has been facing opposition from local groups who are resisting the CRO's plans to build the facility for months. Much of the concern centres around how the company plans to dispose of the animal carcasses and the potential impact on air quality. Covance has said in its permit application that it will only temporarily store the carcasses at the Chandler premises before removing them to be destroyed at off-site facilities. While the company said the Chandler facility will conduct other research besides animal testing, including a wide range of chemical analysis, and will provide at least 400 new jobs, this hasn't reassured many residents who have been putting pressure on the council to prevent Covance from locating in the city, holding regular protest gatherings and signing petitions. Covance, with headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey, is one of the world's largest drug development services companies with annual revenues of $1bn (€750m), global operations in 20 countries, and around 8,000 employees worldwide. Meanwhile, in other related news, South Korea is toughening up on its animal testing laws. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry was reported in the Korea Times to say that by 2012, all research organisations using lab animals must have an in-house ethics committee to prevent unnecessary suffering, and make sure that a minimal number of animals are used in live tests. The committee must have between 3 and 15 experts, with a third being people from outside the organisation. The country's revised animal protection law also aims to make people more responsible for their pets and prevent inhumane treatment, South Korean news agencies reported this week.

Related topics: Preclinical Research, Preclinical

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