At a time of increasing competition for grant funding, it essential now, more than ever before, that investigators at UTHSC are provided with an outstanding research infra- structure that will enhance their productivity and accelerate the pace of research. One vitally important component to the success of the UTHSC research enterprise is the Institutional Animal Care and Use Program. The totality of this Program includes both the Laboratory Animal Care Unit (LACU), whose goal is to provide investigators with the essential resources to develop, maintain and advance their animal-related research needs; and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), who assumes responsibility for the review and oversight of the humane use of animals in all missions of the university.
To ensure that investigators receive the highest quality service, LACU has been undergoing a complete reorganization of its staffing, as well as a re-derivation of stan-dard operating procedures and policies. A hallmark of the reorganization is the requirement for all husbandry staff to have a minimum level of American Association for Laboratory Animals Science (AALAS) certification appropriate for their position, either at the time of hire, or to obtain the required certification within a specified timeframe. Training toward these industry standard certifications is currently ongoing. The new organization of the LACU also included the creation and hire of a Train- ing/Quality Assurance Coordinator. The position is responsible for the ongoing development, implementation, assessment and oversight of both initial and continued staff training, as well as facility quality assurance. These enhancements to our lab animal program, in conjunction with UTHSC finalizing the purchase of the TriMetis vivarium in the coming months, will enable the Office of Research to provide investigators with a high-quality Lab Animal Program, well into the future.
The IACUC has also been undergoing significant organizational and procedural changes directed toward decreasing the time to IACUC approval, and streamlining the submission and review process, for both new animal use protocols and amendments to existing activities. All newly proposed activities (including triennial renewals) are now required to undergo mandatory pre-review, prior to submission in ACAP (see Policy: Animal Use Protocol Submission and Review). In the revised process, assigned reviewers and subject matter experts (e.g., veterinarians and biosafety) interact collaboratively with investigators to facilitate protocol development, thereby reducing errors. Additional enhancements also include the implementation of two IACUC meetings per month, and the added use of Designated Member Review or DMR. The shift to two meetings per month, in conjunction with mandatory pre-review, essentially establishes a rolling review process. Further, for eligible protocols, the DMR process (i.e., two assigned reviewers who act on behalf of the committee) enable the IACUC to review and approve protocols out- side a normally scheduled meeting and, thus, at a faster pace than those requiring Full Committee Review. Finally, in order to reduce regulatory burden on both investigators and committee members, the IACUC is now taking full advantage of federal regulatory rules that permit the administrative review of specified “significant change to animal activities”, thereby accelerating the amendment approval process for the lion’s share of activities (see Policy: Amendments to Approved Protocol).
Coming soon in 2017: New streamlined online submission forms!
-Steven L. Youngentob, PhD, Senior Associate Vice Chancellor for Research