Santa Cruz Biotech to close research
lab, pay $3.5M fine
By Jondi Gumz, Santa Cruz Sentinel, May 23, 2016
Santa Cruz Biotechnology, one of the world’s largest suppliers of
antibodies for research, has agreed to pay a $3.5 million penalty, give up
its animal dealer license and close its research lab to settle allegations
by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that goats and rabbits at its Santa
Cruz facility were mistreated.
The company, the city’s 12th largest employer with 152 employees reported as of September, did not admit or deny allegations of wrongdoing in the May 19 consent order signed by Administrative Law Judge Bobbie McCartney. The order will be posted at Oaljdecisions.dm.usda.gov.
Inquiries left by the Sentinel on the Santa Cruz Biotechnology media line were not returned, and attorney Mark Lynch of Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C., who signed the May 19 settlement for the company, did not respond to a request seeking comment.
Santa Cruz Biotechnology, founded in 1991 by John and Brenda Stephenson and privately held, is headquartered in Dallas with offices in Santa Cruz, and Paso Robles and Sun Valley, Idaho and global sales locations in Heidelberg and Shanghai.
The couple had kept goats at their 200-acre property on Back Ranch Road.
The USDA issued Santa Cruz Biotechnology citations for noncompliance in 2010 and 2011 after inspections and told the company to correct inadequate veterinary care and incomplete medical records for sick animals. More inspections followed.
In 2012, when the USDA filed a complaint alleging Santa Cruz Biotechnology violated the federal Animal Welfare Act, the company reported a herd of more than 15,000 animals.
The USDA filed a second complaint in 2014 alleging inadequate animal care after the company denied inspectors access to its Lake Ranch facility for seven months in 2012.
In 2015, the USDA filed a third complaint alleging “repeated failure to provide minimally adequate and expeditious veterinary care and treatment to animals.” A goat in distress was killed with a bolt pistol to the head because a veterinarian was not available.
A hearing on the complaints took place in August, with another set for April this year. Then Santa Cruz Biotechnology stopped fighting the USDA.
Administrative Law Judge Janice Bullard rescheduled an April 5 hearing for Aug. 15 at Santa Cruz Biotechnology’s request and set a March 31 deadline for the company to provide evidence. It’s unclear whether the company complied with the deadline.
UCSC spokesman Tim Stephens said Santa Cruz Biotechnology has been a
supplier of biotech products for a small number of campus researchers, with
purchases for the current fiscal year totaling $18,000. He was not sure how
researchers using those products might be affected.
The consent decision requires Santa Cruz Biotechnology pay the $3.5 million fine to the U.S. Treasury and cease research lab operations by May 31 and give up its animal dealer license effective Dec. 31. The company is allowed to sell antibodies produced from its Aug. 21, 2015 inventory of blood and serum; those operations must cease by Dec. 31.
Animal advocates hailed the agreement.
“It should serve as a loud and clear message to all research facilities,” said Cathy Liss, president of the Animal Welfare Institute, which called for regulators to take action against Santa Cruz Biotechnology.
“Previously, the highest penalties paid to the USDA were less than $300,000,” Liss said, making this settlement “monumental.”
Activist Michael Budkie, who formed Stop Animal Exploitation NOW and is based in Milford, Ohio, called regulators to shut down other antibody producers with federal violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
“This is the biggest victory for animals in labs, ever — and SAEN has been fighting for this since 2008,” Budkie said.
One example, he said, is Pi Bioscientific in Seattle, where a USDA inspector wrote up problems with care that required correction.
Sigrid Marz, writing for LabTimes, an online news magazine for the European life sciences sector, alerted researchers to antibody companies that were out of compliance and encountered a “wall of silence” at Santa Cruz Biotechnology.
USDA ACTION VS SANTA CRUZ BIOTECHNOLOGY
May 19 consent decision: Awionline.org.
August 2015 complaint: Awionline.org.
November 2014 complaint: Awionline.org.
July 2012 complaint: Awionline.org.
2005 agreement and $4,600 fine: Awionline.org.
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