Institutional Review Board (IRB)
The history of the Institutional Review Board (IRB) is a product of the attempts at improving the ethical conduct of biomedical research and providing protection to human subjects
These attempts started in 1945 after the post World War II Nuremberg Code addressed issues of unethical human experimentation (1). Details of these issues were later more extensively formulated in the International Ethical Code of the Declaration of Helsinki in 1964 (2). These efforts accelerated and matured after the public disclosure of the infamous Tuskegee study conducted on 399 impoverished African American sharecroppers between 1932 and 1972 in Tuskegee, Alabama, USA (3). The Tuskegee Study was undertaken by the US Department of Health In order to study the late complications of syphilis without treatment. The study continued for years after effective antibiotics were in common use (3). The study was terminated only after the press uncovered it and brought it to public attention (3&4). This and other issues led to the Belmont Declaration in 1978, and eventually human subject protection became law in 1991 (5). Subsequently, this led to the requirement by most international medical journals that clinical studies must have approval of the local IRB as a condition of publication (6).
A crucial part of any medical research institution is its Institutional Review Board (IRB). The main function of the IRB and its jurisdictional responsibility include:
- Protection of the right and welfare of individuals involved in human research;
- Assurance of the scientific merits of submitted proposals;
- Validity of informed consent as signed by patients in these proposals;
- Adjudication of the ethics of the submitted proposals;
- Monitoring of the ongoing trials;
- Monitoring of completed and ongoing research records.
As a leading educational institution in the Middle East, An-Najah University benefits from the formation of an Institutional Review Board (IRB). The Board has the authority to approve, disapprove or make recommendations to proposed clinical research proposals to be conducted at An-Najah University or its affiliated institutions. In order to familiarize research workers with issues leading to formation and function of IRB, the National Institute of Health (NIH) has developed an online course which is now internationally required by IRBs and applicants for IRB approval applications. Until the creation of an alternate internationally-adopted IRB education body, An-Najah University will require members of IRB and clinical investigators submitting a proposal to obtain a certificate from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by completing the online course on Human Participant Protections Education for Research Teams (http://phrp.nihtraining.com/users/login.php).
The An-Najah IRB is composed of twelve members representing the Faculties of Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing, Sciences, Arts, Engineering and Physical Education colleges. It also has a university attorney who is familiar with local regulations, as well as two lay individuals who are familiar with human research. The committee also includes a member of the clergy. There is also an Ex-Officio non-voting member who represents the administration (the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine). The Board is chaired by RM Bashir, MD, who has been charged with IRB development at the institution. To ensure familiarity with research issues and the issues that led to the formation of the Board, all members complete the online course on Human Participant Protections Education for Research Teams (http://phrp.nihtraining.com/users/login.php).
Prior to applying for IRB approval, the principal investigator as well as other members of the applying team must complete the on-line course on Human Participant Protections Education for Research Teams (http://phrp.nihtraining.com/users/login.php) and include a copy of their certification with their submission. The initial application, available on An-Najah IRB website ([email protected]), is completed and the submitted electronically to the same site (attachment #1). The initial submission should be accompanied by a completed consent form, available electronically with the IRB application (attachment #2).
The Board meets every other month and reviews all applications. If the need arises, the Board will meet monthly. The schedule for the meetings for the entire year is circulated on the first of August the prior year. Additional meetings, as the need arises, will be announced as needed.
- To ensure that human subjects are not placed at undue risk;
- To ensure that human subjects are granted uncoerced consent to participate;
- To ensure and help to protect validity of research findings;
- To comply with internationally accepted standards.
- Research involving human subjects;
- Research using records gathered on human subjects;
- Research involving human tissue collected at or sent to the institution. This includes research that falls into any of the following categories:
- research conducted by University faculty, staff or students;
- research performed on University premises;
- research which involves University faculty, staff or students;
- research which involves the completion of an award, degree or course;
- research which involves multiple institutions in which the University is participating.
- Trials of war criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals under Control Council Law No. 10, vol. 2, pp. 181-182.,Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office, 1949.
- Declaration of Helsinki (1964) Adopted by the 18th World Medical Assembly, Helsinki, and Finland. June 1964. Available on line at www.cirp.org/library/ethics/helsinki/.
- Twenty Years After: The Legacy of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. The Hastings Center Report 22 ( No. 6, November/December 1992): 29-40.
- Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) (2001-2003) “Protecting Human Research Participants: a compilation of stories from COSSA Washington Update regarding the oversight of human research participants. “ Available online at http://www.cossa.org/hsbackground.htm#social.
- National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical Research. 1979. The Belmont Report: Ethical principles and guidelines for protection of human subjects of research. Washington, DC: US Government printing press.
- World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki. Ethical principles for medical research involving human subjects. JAMA. 2000: 284: 3043 – 3045.