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IACUC Processes Streamline Work for Researchers

A recent change to the procedures of the UT Knoxville Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) will allow some amendments to protocols to undergo administrative approval by the IACUC Chair or a designated veterinarian through Veterinary Verification Consultation rather than review by the full committee. This change will streamline the approval process for such changes, allowing PIs submitting amendments to protocols to see approval faster. Researchers who have a need for expedited approval or an interest in understanding which types of amendments fall under the updated approval process may contact the IACUC office (utiacuc@utk.edu, 865-974-5547) for further information.

IACUC has also implemented a post-approval monitoring (PAM) program, which provides assurance to regulatory agencies that animal work is being conducted as approved in research and teaching protocols. The post-approval monitoring process is a collegial interaction wherein the director of animal compliance joins the PI and their staff to observe their research activities and pose questions about the research or teaching. Animals may also be checked at a later time by the director in order to evaluate documentation, follow-up care, and monitoring conducted by the PI’s staff following a procedure.

The goal of the PAM program is to monitor each protocol at least once during the course of its three-year approval range. Those studies involving unrelieved pain or distress (Category E protocols), surgery or multiple procedures on the same animal over a period of time may be monitored more frequently. Researchers whose work has not been evaluated should contact the IACUC offices to take advantage of the program.

The program’s primary objective is to provide guidance on maintaining compliance with the standards under which protocols were initially approved. This guidance may occur in the form of protocol amendments, modifications to the manner in which activities are performed in order to maintain consistency with the protocols that were approved, or improvements to record keeping in order to accurately document the presence or absence of potential side effects delineated in the protocol. In the course of post-approval monitoring, patterns may develop which indicate that some policies, procedures, or training need to be revisited. PIs receive a PAM Report following their observation session with recommendations for improving compliance or commendations for their compliance.

Researchers are encouraged to contact the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee’s office if a study is about to begin in order to schedule post approval monitoring. It is always beneficial to have a fresh set of eyes evaluate a study, since information that may seem trivial to a researcher in the moment may actually be important to include in study protocols. Information pertaining to policies and procedures as well as compliance and training with IACUC can be found on their website.