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(Last updated 4/25/06)
Previous stories pertaining to AAALAC accreditation:
"Ohio State University's Lab Animal Program Is Accredited," 11/14/03.
"International Group Accredits Ohio State's Animal Care Program," 3/27/03.
OHIO STATE INSTITUTES CHANGES IN ANIMAL RESEARCH PROGRAM
COLUMBUS, Ohio Ohio State University announced today that it is in the process of revising its approach to managing and monitoring animal research programs.
This comes in response to concerns raised by the Council on Accreditation of the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC), a voluntary membership, international organization which certifies animal care and use programs at research institutions.
Ohio State is recognized nationally for the scope and quality of our animal research work, but we need to change and improve some of our approaches in order to meet the standards of best practices recommended by AAALAC, explained Robert McGrath, senior vice president for research.
The announcement comes as university officials prepare for a May 21st hearing before AAALAC. While review by AAALAC is completely voluntary, many sponsors rely on its accreditation to insure best practices for human safety and animal wellbeing within an institution's animal research program. The university was informed in February that it risks a revocation of its current accreditation if prescribed changes, identified as areas of concern in earlier years, were not implemented in a timely fashion.
A peer team of AAALAC reviewers visited the campus in October, 2005, and reviewed actions of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), inspected research laboratories, and interviewed research faculty and staff. While they reported favorably on many aspects of Ohio State's programs, they also cited a number of serious weaknesses.
McGrath said that AAALAC's primary concerns fell into three distinct categories:
- The need for an effective and comprehensive occupational health and safety program for faculty, staff and students engaged in animal-related research, along with improved record-keeping on training and individual health monitoring;
- Improvements in inspections and documentation of actions taken in laboratories where animals are housed or involved in surgical procedures;
- And strict enforcement of precise procedures required in IACUC-approved protocols to ensure and document compliance with all regulations, guidelines and best practices for the use of animals in research.
In a February 22, 2006 letter from University President Karen A. Holbrook to McGrath, she called the issues raised by the AAALAC reviewers a very serious and unacceptable situation for this university, and directed him to apply university resources as necessary to correct deficiencies in the university's programs.
At the recommendation of AAALAC, the university contracted with two respected outside consultants, both peers at other top-tier research universities and both former members of AAALAC's Board, to review the university's plans and actions to correct those problems and advise additional efforts to strengthen Ohio State's animal research program.
To date, the university has completed a number of major improvements in response to the AAALAC concerns and has other substantive changes in process. These include:
- All research faculty, staff and students who handle animals more than 1,200 people must now enroll in an online health registry to insure that they have completed a health assessment and appropriate training in both proper laboratory animal care and use, and in handling bio-hazardous materials where applicable. Individuals who have not completed these requirements will be prohibited from working with animals;
- In March, experts from University Laboratory Animal Resources, the Office of Responsible Research Practices and the IACUC inspected each of the 309 locations on campus where animals are housed or used. The inspection teams focused on whether each lab was in compliance with current regulations and mandated corrective actions when problems were found. In the future, similar inspections will take place twice annually. While some corrective actions were necessary, at present 98 percent of the university's animal laboratories are fully compliant with AAALAC standards. Corrective actions are largely associated with proper ventilation;
- In July of 2005, the IACUC was strengthened with a new chair and since then, substantive changes have been enacted in its ongoing procedures. Among them is the requirement that no protocols will be approved unless all researchers on the protocol have completed the appropriate training and are registered in the health and safety database. Protocols must also have been approved by other appropriate university oversight committees before they will be reviewed or approved by the IACUC.
We believe that these and other measures will improve our overall animal research program, as well as methodically address all concerns voiced by the AAALAC accreditation team, McGrath said.
We value the peer advice of the AAALAC group. While these types of process improvements are challenging for a research institution as large and complex as Ohio State, we are committed to maintaining a program that meets if not exceeds all existing requirements and guidelines for animal care and use. Utilizing these best practices, will allow our faculty to continue to execute the type of quality research that we should expect from Ohio State University.
Contact: Earle Holland
(614) 286-6574; Holland.firstname.lastname@example.org .