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Ethics committee to help speed up Covid-19 research

Members to pass ethics reviews quickly and efficiently to speed up Ireland’s scientific response

The government has established a temporary national research ethics committee to accelerate ethics reviews for all Covid-19 related research activity in Ireland.

The Health Research Board’s decision to create the board, announced on 20 April, is part of Ireland’s overall response to the coronavirus pandemic. Simon Harris, minister for health, said the board’s creation would be in line with recommendations found in the World Health Organization’s Roadmap for Research and Development.

The temporary committee would accelerate the ethical approval of urgent studies, the government said.

At present, the committee has 15 expert and non-expert members from a variety of backgrounds and with a range of experience. The committee would “ensure the highest standards of ethics review while delivering swift decisions”, the government said in a statement. 

The Covid-19 committee will be supported by the recently established Office for National Research Ethics Committees. It will assess work in a wide range of research areas including basic research, translational research, clinical research, diagnostics and treatment, social sciences, health services research and applied health policy, the statement said.

The committee will work parallel to existing bodies that deal with regulatory and consent declaration processes. These include the Health Protection Regulatory Authority (HPRA) and Health Research Consent Declaration Committee, the government said.