NIH issues Guidance on IACUC Activities during COVID-19

Mar 17, 2020, 17:51 PM by Melodi Moore
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In response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, the NIH issued guidance to IACUC activities in NOT-OD-20-088.  The purpose of this Notice is to inform institutions of flexibilities provided in the Public Health Service (PHS) Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (Policy) that are applicable to implementing a pandemic plan for animal care and use programs. The PHS Policy also contains provisions that can be instituted as social distancing measures to prevent the spread of disease.

Institutions may implement the following measures:

Conduct of Semiannual Facility Inspections

IACUCs may consider the following flexibilities in the conduct of semiannual animal facility inspections:

  • The timing of facility inspections may extend 30 days beyond the six-month interval from the last review if there is no forward drift of the date from year to year.
  • The IACUC has discretion to determine the best means of conducting the facility inspections. This includes using any qualified individual as ad hoc consultants. For areas housing non-USDA regulated species, the IACUC may use as few as one qualified individual to conduct the inspections. The IACUC still remains responsible for the evaluation and report to the Institutional Official.

OLAW may temporarily waive specific IACUC functions in accordance with PHS Policy Section V.D. Assured institutions that are unable to inspect, at least once every six months, all of the institution’s animal facilities (including satellite facilities) may request a waiver from OLAW. Authorized institutional representatives may request a waiver of the inspection requirement or other provisions of the PHS Policy by submitting a request with justification to OLAW at olawdpe@mail.nih.gov. The waiver will be reviewed and approved in writing by OLAW.

Conduct of IACUC Meetings

IACUCs may institute the following as social distancing measures to prevent the spread of disease:

  • The IACUC may institute alternatives to face-to-face meetings such as teleconference or video conferencing (see NOT-OD-06-052).
  • The number of IACUC meetings may be reduced to as few as one every six months.
  • The IACUC may choose to expand their use of designated member review in lieu of full committee review.

Additional guidance for preparing for a pandemic can be found on the OLAW website in the Frequently Asked Questions section, under Institutional Responsibilities, FAQ G9. If OLAW determines that additional measures must be implemented to meet the needs of the research community and funding components, additional guidance will be announced. OLAW is the only entity authorized to make determinations regarding waivers to provisions of the PHS Policy.

Please contact the UTMB IACUC with any questions or for clarifications.