Santa Cruz Biotech fined, banned from animal use

May 20 2016 Published by under Animals in Research, Conduct of Science

The big news of the day is that Santa Cruz Biotech has been punished for their malfeasance.

Buzzfeed News reports:

After years of allegations of mistreated research goats and rabbits, a settlement agreement (pdf) announced late on Friday will put Santa Cruz Biotechnology out of the scientific antibody business. The company will also pay a $3.5 million fine, the largest ever issued for this type of violation.

The settlement is only three pages so go ahead and read it. It is pretty much to the point.

Santa Cruz Biotech neither admits nor denies the allegations, blah, blah, but it is settling. They are to be penalized $3.5 million dollars, payable by the end of May, 2016. Their animal welfare act registration is revoked effective Dec 31, 2016. They will not use any inventory of the blood or serum they have on hand collected prior to Aug 21, 2015 to make, sell, transport, etc anything from May 20, 2016 to Dec 31, 2016 (after which they still cannot, I assume, since the license will be revoked). They agree to cease all activity as a research facility and will request cancellation of their registration with APHIS as such as of May 31, 2016.

I don't know how easy it will be for the overall company to get around this by starting up some other entity, possibly off shore, but it sure as heck looks like Santa Cruz Biotech is out of business.

Hoo-ray!!

There are several specific allegations of animal use violations under the Animal Welfare Act at play. But for me there was one really big deal issue, I assume this was why the hammer came down so hard and why Santa Cruz Biotech decided they had no choice but to settle in this manner.

As Nature reported in early 2013, Santa Cruz Biotech hid an animal facility from Federal inspectors.

A herd of 841 goats has kicked up a stir for one of the world’s largest antibody suppliers after US agricultural officials found the animals — including 12 in poor health — in an unreported antibody production facility owned by California-based Santa Cruz Biotechnology.

“The existence of the site was denied even when directly asked” of employees during previous inspections, according to a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) report finalised on 7 December, 2012. But evidence gathered on a 31 October inspection suggested that an additional barn roughly 14 kilometres south of the company's main animal facility had been in use for at least two and a half years, officials said.

This is mind bogglingly bad, in my view. Obviously criminal behavior. The Nature bit described this as "another setback". To me this should have been game over right here. Obviously trying to cover up misuse of animals so my thought is that even if it worked, and you can't actually observe the misuse, well, "get Capone on taxes even if you can't prove the crime" theory.

But then there was more. In the midst of all the inspecting and reporting and what not....

In July 2015, the major antibody provider Santa Cruz Biotechnology owned 2,471 rabbits and 3,202 goats. Now the animals have vanished, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
...
the company seems to have done away with its entire animal inventory. When the USDA inspected the firm's California facility on 12 January, it found no animal-welfare violations, and listed “no animals present or none inspected”. USDA spokesman Ed Curlett says that no animals were present during the inspection.

The fate of the goats and rabbits is unclear. The company did not respond to questions about the matter, and David Schaefer, director of public relations for the law firm Covington & Burling in Washington DC, which is representing Santa Cruz Biotechnology, declined to comment on the animals’ fate.

This sounds like an outrage, I know. But the bottom line is that a company in good standing with animal use regulatory authorities could in fact decide to euthanize all of its animals. It could decide to transfer or sell them to someone else under the appropriate regulations and procedures. This is really suspicious that the company won't say what it did with the animals, but still.

It's the concealment of the animal facility mentioned in the Dec 7, 2012 report that is the major violation in my view. They deserve to be put out of business for that.

16 responses so far

  • Grumpy says:

    Wtf, DM, how is euthanizing 3,202 goats anything but outrageous?

  • drugmonkey says:

    Why is it? We have regulations that permit animal use. Doing it under these regulations is not outrageous in and of itself. If, for example, they were all in distress it would even be the obligatory and humane thing to euthanize them. If uneeded they could be sold to other approved users....we don't know they were euthanized, could have been sold to some other company.

    Concealment from regulatory authority is *clearly* a massive violation. No wiggle room at all.

  • Grumble says:

    Does this mean that Santa Cruz Biotech will finally stop sending me spam e-mails?

    Such a shame that this despicable outfit sullies the name "Santa Cruz", which is otherwise refers to a unique university and town, and a beautiful part of the world.

  • lazybratsche says:

    I'm torn between "good riddance" and "but my favorite antibodies!". They offered some antibodies against My Favorite Gene that, practically speaking, were fraudulently labelled. I thought I was clever when I was skeptical and asked them to send me free samples. Now I realize I was providing free quality control for "products" developed by injecting random animals with random peptides.

    On the other hand, they sell the best monoclonal antibody against Ortholog Of My Favorite Gene... better stock up.

  • Draino says:

    Well I'll be.... Every paper I've ever published had at least a couple Santa Cruz antibodies in the methods. I feel like I should write a poem to their passing, or something.

  • David Jentsch says:

    It's a shame that we have a federal law prohibiting you from spending federal money on a foreign airline ticket but not one that forbids you from spending federal money on a company that profits from a multi-year pattern of illegal animal abuse.

    Santa Cruz is far from out of business. Presumably, they will continue using mice for the production of monoclonal antibodies. Because they are a private organization, no one will be monitoring how they treat said mice, and that's a shame. If they can treat goats and rabbits so horribly, one wonders what they feel comfortable doing to mice.

    Frankly, Santa Cruz should go out of business, and the scientific community should hasten that by refusing to buy their products.

  • jandrews says:

    David, fully agreed and I've already banned my lab from purchasing anything from santa cruz. Fortunately, we've found the majority of santa cruz antibodies we purchased were rubbish, so it wasn't a big hit to our operations.

  • Dave says:

    They'll move to monoclonals only.

    Hate this company though.

  • namnezia says:

    And good riddance...

  • k elliott says:

    Their Abs never worked for us either.

  • jmz4 says:

    Yeah, only about 1 in 4 would work well. But it was so relatively cheap that it was almost always worth trying the antibody, because if it became a staple, you could easily save thousands of dollars a year over pricier vendors.
    It is a shrewd and cynical business model.

  • Dave says:

    Their homepage is already touting their monoclonal Ab capabilities.

  • damit says:

    Their antiibodies are diluted all to hell and not well verified.

    Giving you a platform, DM, but I have frequently heard "yeah but it's from Santa Cruz so you can't trust it" in grant review.

  • AcademicLurker says:

    I have frequently heard "yeah but it's from Santa Cruz so you can't trust it" in grant review.

    Significance: The importance of this protein is clearly demonstrated by the fact that immunostaining indicates that it is expressed in every tissue in the body. At all stages of development. In every organism we've examined...

  • Heather Lynn says:

    Their Abs were known to be crap. As a lab tech, I enforced a PI ban on ordering them.

  • Noah Shroyer says:

    I'm enjoying the schadenfreude watching this crap antibody company get fined and hopefully shut down because of this awful abuse.

    Before you run to buy the last aliquot of their antibodies, think about this: no one else will be able to get that antibody to reproduce your results. After next week, they can't sell the goat and rabbit antibodies they have on the shelf! So even if you use it and publish the results, no one can follow up on your study.

    So yeah, they may have the only commercial antibody to your favorite protein that you know works (you just have to crop out those other bands...). Now's the time to find an alternate Ab.

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