Primate Center History

Wake Forest School of Medicine (WFSM) has a distinguished history of non-human primate research.  In the late 1950s, under the guidance of Thomas B. Clarkson, DVM, a research approach was developed using pigeons and other animals as clinical surrogates to study diseases of human relevance – the discipline that came to be known as "comparative medicine." Beginning in the early 1960s, Clarkson, as chairman of the Department of Comparative Medicine, pioneered the use of non-human primates at WFSM, establishing facilities for monkey housing and research at a 200-acre property located 10 miles from the Medical Center, now called the Friedberg Campus.

By 1975, the number of monkeys at WFSM was over 600, with most housed on the Friedberg Campus. By the mid-1980s the total monkey census exceeded 1,000 animals. This population included extensive breeding colonies established and managed as national research resources with funds provided by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). The largest colonies were comprised of M. fascicularis and M. mulatta. The colonies also included M. arctoides, Erythrocebus patas, and Chlorocebus (Cercopithecus) aethiops.

The next step toward the development of the WFUPC was the creation of the Comparative Medicine Clinical Research Center in 1988. It was organized around specialized research laboratories for vascular biology, endocrinology, and data services. That center was dedicated to the use of non-human primates in the study of chronic disease and functioned much like an animal version of a General Clinical Research Center, providing faculty, staff, equipment, and facilities to conduct research to better understand the mechanisms, prevention, and therapy of human diseases.

Although most research with monkeys was initially conducted by investigators from the Department of Comparative Medicine, by 2006, primate research at WFSM had come to involve the Departments of Pathology,Physiology and Pharmacology, Neurobiology and Anatomy, Neurology, Cancer Biology, the Division of Surgical Sciences, the Center for Investigative Neuroscience, Center for Alcohol Studies, and the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

In 2007, the Comparative Medicine Clinical Research Center became the Wake Forest University Primate Center. By 2008 the monkey census of approximately 1200 individuals included four breeding colonies, two of which (M. fascicularis, C. aethiops) are national research resources supported by P40 grants from the National Center for Research Resources.

Quick Reference

Wake Forest Primate Center
Program Director
Jay Kaplan, PhD

Tel: 336-716-1649

E-mail the WFPC at

Wake Forest Primate Center
Wake Forest University
Medical Center Boulevard
Winston-Salem, NC 27157
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Last Updated: 05-28-2014
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