Judicial Watch Obtains Additional Records of FDA Purchases of Fetal Tissue for ‘Humanized Mice’ Project; Agency Wanted ‘Fresh, Shipped on Wet Ice’ Fetal Organs
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced that it received an additional 575 pages of records from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) showing the agency spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to buy human fetal tissue from California-based Advanced Bioscience Resources (ABR). The tissue was used in creating “humanized mice” to test “biologic drug products.”
ABR, a nonprofit, human fetal tissue “procurement” firm, has been the subject of criminal referrals from both U.S. House and Senate committees investigating human fetal tissue trafficking and whether Planned Parenthood or any other entity was illegally profiting from transfers of organs harvested from aborted human fetuses. Federal law regulates the purchase and acceptance of human fetal tissue for research purposes. It is unlawful to “acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration if the transfer affects interstate commerce.”
The records include the following communications between ABR procurement manager Perrin Larton and FDA research veterinary medical official Dr. Kristina Howard between January 2011 and April 2018:
Howard’s September 27, 2012, application sent to Larton indicates that ABR would be paid $12,000 up front for “tissue purchases.” The contract provided for the provision of human fetal tissue with a gestational age of 16 to 24 weeks, including “One set of tissue (thymus/liver) approx. twice monthly.” It was to be shipped “Fresh; shipped on wet ice.”
Howard’s May 10, 2012, email to Larton bearing the subject line “Tissue Delivery” and saying, “Just wanted to follow up with you regarding the tissue deliveries. We have three batches of mice that still need to be humanized, so please keep us on the schedule every week until we manage to receive three sets of tissue.”
Howard’s October 17, 2012, email to Larton about the gender of an aborted fetus from which an organ was harvested: “I wanted to check with your records on the sex of the tissue we received today. It was Liver #4505.” Larton responded, “The techs were not able to identify the gender. We only check external genitalia and if it’s not there … due to the nature of the termination procedure… we have no way of telling.” Howard replied, “Thank you for explaining that to me. I have some leftover cells to sex it.”
A May 9, 2013, email exchange in which Howard complained to Larton about Fedex x-raying the packages in which fetal organs had been shipped. Howard wrote, “Our package was x-rayed and the tissues could not be used.” Larton responded, “DAMN … they were wonderful tissues. I procured them! I’m training a new tech in Minneapolis and I told her how important it is to put the DO NOT X-RAY stickers on the package. Of course if you have an IMBECILE on the Fedex side … but then, now it’s a moot point.” Howard replied, “Yes, we were absolutely heartbroken. They were beautiful tissues and to lose them like that was awful.”
An August 26, 2015, email exchange in which the FDA’s Howard wrote, “As always, we are requesting liver and thymus for each date.” ABR’s Larton responds, “I’ll put you on the schedule for your requested tissue delivery dates.” Howard replies, “Thanks Perrin! Btw, are you planning to attend the humanized mouse workshop in Zurich in January?” Larton then writes, “Yes. Linda and I will both be attending. Will we see you there?” Howard replies, “Assuming the gov’t allows me to go, I will be there. I have lots of data!”
A June 9, 2016, email exchange in which Howard tells Larton, “We have a very important and timing-wise challenging, surgery the week of June 20. We will be making dual humanized BLT mice (human liver and the BLT surgery) at the same time.” Larton replies, “Does the tissue HAVE to come from a male fetus? It really helps when we can send either, especially since this is an important and time sensitive surgery.” Howard replied, “It is strongly preferred to have a male fetus if at all possible. However, after we dose the mice, we have to proceed with the surgery, so at that point undetermined sex or female is better than no tissue. I know in some cases it is impossible to tell what the sex is, however, I don’t know what proportion of your tissues are in that category.”
A July 22, 2016, email in which Howard asked Larton if she knew “about tissue for tomorrow yet?” Larton replied, “This week I’m working with a doctor who induces fetal demise at 20 weeks. The other doctors who staff this clinic won’t induce fetal demise until 22 weeks … and of course … this week we had 4 21 week [sic] cases that all had been injected with digoxin on Wednesday so the tissue is unusable. I’ll have you on next week and prioritize your request.”
An August 5, 2016, email from un unidentified individual at ABR informing Howard that ABR was “not able to procure for you today,” referring to human fetal tissue. Howard replied, “Given how old the mice are (12 weeks) we will use frozen tissue. Fresh tissue is always our preference, but I don’t think we can wait another week. We are going to receive more mice in early Sept so we will try for more tissue then. I hope supply issues will resolve themselves by that time.” Larton, who was CCd on the email, responded, “It’s so frustrating. We’re also working with a new doctor in one of the busiest clinics… not a good combo! The tissue is awful!”
A May 25, 2017, email in which Howard asked Larton “How likely is it that we could get tissue tomorrow?” Larton responded, “Quite likely. I don’t know how many cases will be available, but you’re the only researcher that will take tissue this Saturday.” Howard replied, “Great news! We have mice that need to be made.” Howard also thanks Perrin, “Btw, last week’s tissue was amazing!”
A September 22, 2017, email in which Lorton wrote to Howard: “We did get tissue for you today. Is it to be addressed to you for pick up at the station?” Howard responded, “Yay! Happy to hear tissue is available. By chance do you know how many weeks it is?” Larton responded, “The tissue is 15 weeks. Due to the Rosh Hashanah holiday … the clinics were closed yesterday … so no real large tissue today.” Howard replied, “I didn’t realize that the holiday would interfere with clinic operations. Thanks again for getting the tissue.” Larton responded, “We didn’t either … but … many of the doctors are Jewish!”
An April 5, 2018, email in which Howard wrote to Perrin, “[W]hile we (like everyone else) are desperate for tissue each week, this week and especially next week are important for us to get tissue. We are trying to get several new staff qualified for our surgery (so they can participate in the other scheduled surgeries) and we must have fresh tissue to do that. I realize tissue is always hit or miss, but if it is possible to prioritize us these two weeks, it would be greatly appreciated.” Larton replied, “I just let everyone know to prioritize your request today and if we don’t get it today, tomorrow”
A June 18, 2018, email in which the FDA’s Howard asked ABR’s Perrin to bill the FDA for “four (4) sets of tissue for July, however, to ensure they are covered on the existing PO [purchase order], can they all be billed for July 6 – as we did last year as time was running out?” Perrin replied, “I’m sure [name redacted] won’t have a problem billing to the existing PO since you’ve done it in the past.”
In September 2018, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) terminated the contract with ABR. HHS said it “was not sufficiently assured that contract included the appropriate protections applicable to fetal tissue research or met all other procurement requirements.”
Judicial Watch received the records as a result a March 2019 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against HHS, of which the FDA is a part (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department Health and Human Services (No. 1:19-cv-00876)).
“These fetal organ trafficking documents shock the conscience and show potentially illegal use of tax dollars to purchase organs of the unborn killed through abortion,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
Judicial Watch recently announced that the federal court overseeing this same March 2019 lawsuit had ordered HHS to release previously withheld portions of records about its purchases of organs harvested from aborted human fetuses. The court found “there is reason to question” whether the transactions violate federal law barring the sale of fetal organs.
The decision notes that ABR:
sold second-trimester livers and thymi for hundreds of dollars apiece. The same for brains, eyes, and lungs. After tacking on fees for services like shipping and cleaning, ABR could collect over $2,000 on a single fetus it purchased from Planned Parenthood for $60. The federal government participated in this potentially illicit trade for years.
The court also found it “dubious” that a FOIA exception invoked by the government could be used to “shield illegal business practices under the guise of ‘confidential business information’” and declared that “[t]here is reason to question the lawfulness of the transaction between the Government and ABR.”
This is the third set of records released by Judicial Watch as the result of its March 2019 lawsuit. Other sets, which also includes records obtained from the National Institutes of Health, were released in February 2020 and June 2020.