The University of Louisiana at Lafayette-New Iberia Research Center is located on a former naval base outside of New Iberia, Louisiana, which is 30 miles south of Lafayette. The base was built in the 1950s and closed in the 1960s, when the land was donated to Iberia Parish to promote economic growth.
Gulf South Research Institute (GSRI) began the Life Science Division at the site and focused primarily on rodent animal models. Some primates were housed there as well. In 1984, GSRI discontinued its biological research activities and UL Lafayette (then the University of Southwestern Louisiana) redefined the nature of the facility and created the New Iberia Research Center, operating a Primate Research Center as a contract support facility.
At that time, the primary focus of the Center was to provide private industry and the federal government with a reliable source of native born, quality bred non-human primates. In 1990, University of Louisiana at Lafayette New Iberia Research Center expanded its mission by providing pre-clinical safety, pharmacodynamic, pharmacokinetic, and efficacy evaluations of pharmaceuticals and biotechnology products.
Over the years, much growth and improvement to the facilities has occurred including the most recent construction of two new automated research buildings. Much attention has also been given to the development of suitable living quarters for the approximately 6,000 non-human primate residents of the facility.
New Iberia Research Center began retiring chimpanzees from research in 2015 prior to reclassification under the Endangered Species Act. In 2016 an announcement between Project Chimps, a nonprofit organization and the University's New Iberia Research Center reached an agreement to relocate 220 retired research chimpanzees to its new sanctuary in northern Georgia. The Summer 2016 transport included a small group of NIRC-owned chimps to the Project Chimps 236-acre sanctuary in Blue Ridge, Georgia. All NIRC chimpanzees will be moved in social groups that will include up to 10 chimpanzees to the sanctuary over the next several years.