A Win – Win Situation! – Guest Blogger Saradha S. (Part 2)

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Furthering my previous post, the 2015 IACUC conference organized by NWABR at Seattle this February left me with this – biomedical study protocols involving animals may not seem to be the most humane choice for many but more often than not, they turn out to be the best available choice.

The conference encompassed many aspects of IACUCs including protocol reviews, reducing regulatory burden, similarities/differences among ‘IACUC’ regulations around the world and much more. Of particular interest to me, though, was a session where researchers shared their experience in using non-primate animals under a research setting; this session showcased ways in which animals were subjects for research, aided research, and were saved by research. The takeaway for me – it’s not just about making use of them but being able to help them in turn. I met many people who not only had the right to work with animals, but felt the responsibility to protect them.

Some of these research teams have had issues such as long turnaround time to get protocols approved (highly disruptive for patients depending on studies like gene therapy) while some others are extremely happy with all the support and assistance they get from the IACUCs.

Such research that aims for the greater good is entrenched in ethical debate, it appears.

Kudos to the IACUCs for their efforts to instill strong ethical standards in every research lab that deals with such fascinating creatures as animals!

Kudos to the biomedical research community for the drive and dedication with which they strive to solve unanswered questions about animal and human health, despite all odds!

Kudos to NWABR for facilitating this great event!  Let’s continue the conversation.

Saradha is a Business development professional with international experience in marketing, inside sales and market research. She brings her MS in Biotechnology with post-graduate studies in business administration and several biotech industry internships to bear as a volunteer in the life sciences

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Nothing Like Travel to Broaden A Perspective! – Mystery Blogger Brigade

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Immersed in our own uniquely American IACUC culture, it’s easy to become hyper-focused on the numerous (sometimes picky and occasionally onerous) rules and regulations that mandate and constrain our IACUC committees in the United States of America.

Kathryn Bayne’s recent 2015 Regional IACUC Conference talk on “IACUC Oversight Around the World” reminded us that we are not alone in the specialized world of animal ethics committees, and that across the globe, similar committees grapple with the same concerns, but work under somewhat different sets of mandates and constraints.

In many nations, the distinction between support for welfare and rights is not clear-cut.  USA IACUCs are mandated to consider animal pain and distress; in Europe, suffering and lasting harm are added to the mandated considerations.

While we weigh the “3R’s” in our protocol evaluations, EU places them in a hierarchy: 1-Replace, 2-Reduce or 3-Refine. Internationally, there are other “R’s” required such as Rehabilitation (India), and in Europe, Re-use or Rehoming (taking into consideration the lifetime experience of each animal), and Retrospective Review (was the protocol as severe as predicted, was the research goal met, were the 3 R’s complied with?) are added.

As responsible IACUC members, how might a USA IACUC committee’s deliberations change with the requirement that the committee include a representative of an animal welfare/animal rights organization too?  It is certainly food for thought.

Kind thanks to the submissions from professionals of the mystery blogger brigade. These folks are veterinarians, IACUC professionals, community members, regulatory officials and instructional professors who bring insight to the processes of the biomed community. We value your opinions and expertise.

Do you have a thought to share? Become a member of our professional blogger brigade.  Retain your anonymity, speak your mind in a collegial forum.  Contact conferences@nwabr.org for more information.

A Learning Adventure! Mock IACUC Protocol Session –Guest Blogger Andrea S.

Attendees of the recent 2015 IACUC Conference participated in practice sessions designed to facilitate some hard choices.  Teams reviewed a “protocol” (a proposal for research).  Not only were participants asked to question whether the behavior of these “mock” proposals complied with the laws governing humane treatment of animals, but they were asked to consider the ethical questions of whether the proposal could pass to actionable as both compassionate and thorough.

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Ok, it’s a mouthful, but this year’s highlight was going over the Veterinarian Verification and Consult (VVC) process of minor vs. major protocol changes. This catchy new acronym was the talk of the conference and explained in detail during the event.  Simply, it’s like this:  If a scientist submits a proposed way of working with animals, and then and has a small change to add, does research that could benefit humans have to delay because of it?  Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  It depends on the scope of change.

An Institutional Care and Use Committee (IACUC) is unique to any organization that works with animals, and consists of at least one veterinarian who has training in laboratory animal science and expertise in the species under review and consideration, at least one practicing research scientist, at least one member whose primary concerns are in a nonscientific area (i.e., ethicist, lawyer, member of the clergy), and at least one person not affiliated with the institution to represent community interests in proper care and use of animals.

On Monday, February 23, 2015 our color-coded badges distinguished each attendee with a committee role. Despite the afternoon break sugar rush from the malted milk balls, MC James Riddle was able to quickly transition participants into forming mock IACUCs at each of the tables. Next, we sought to solve tricky VVC –related protocol scenarios.

It was easily the cherry on top of the sundae, aside from the sunny skies viewable through the large bay windows, but pairing with strangers served as a great networking opportunity for our regulatory community.  Allowing time to exchange expertise across multiple fields and backgrounds was invaluable. We could step Out of the Mouse Cage a bit, to see what perspective someone from a different institution might have.

Mock protocol review sessions during a conference, what a great idea!

Guest blogger Andrea S. attended last week’s Conference Beyond the Mouse Cage: Human Health in Motion at Bell Harbor. She currently supports IACUC work at Western Washington University.

 

Wild About Whale Research, Scatologically Speaking

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Have you heard the story about the rescue dog that is helping scientists understand why killer whales are struggling to reproduce in Puget Sound? If you were at the 2015 NWABR IACUC Conference, then you got to hear conservation biologist Dr. Samuel K. Wasser share an amazing story of hope.

Sam Wasser and his team identify dogs with intense ball-drive. They train the dogs to identify a variety of scat (yes, that’s poo) by scent from endangered animals in the animal’s native environment. For killer whales, this means the dogs like “Tucker” learn to track whale scat for scientists from boats on Puget Sound, braving the environmental challenges of wind, currents, and a 30 minute window to collect the sample before the whale scat breaks apart and sinks.

Collecting and analyzing samples enables Sam Wasser and his team to build robust, individual health profiles about endangered animals without ever seeing them, touching them, or disturbing their environment. Through these profiles, Sam and his team are able to understand the underlying nutritional, reproductive, and environmental factors that are impacting endangered species.

The dogs bring positive attention to research. Tourists on the whale boats ask their guides what the dogs are doing, and the guides help educate the public about how dogs provide scientists a better understanding of the environmental challenges facing the whales.

But the story is bigger than whales, if that’s even possible. The rescue dogs are helping to determine patterns in other threatened animals.  I came away inspired by Dr. Wasser’s creative, insightful, and practical approach to research, and the wonderful potential that exists when sound science and animal welfare intersect.

Institutional Care and Use Committees (IACUCs) like ones at the University of Washington take part in reviewing how these field animals will be used in research, and make recommendations for safety and compliance. Kind thanks to Shannon R., Regulatory Compliance Specialist at the Allen Institute for her thoughts and blog entry, and Sam Wasser for his ongoing important work!

My Favorite 2015 Seattle IACUC Moments

I attended last week’s Conference Beyond the Mouse Cage: Human Health in Motion at Bell Harbor and enjoyed many things about each of the topics, but considered sharing with those who missed the fun a summary of favorite highlights.

In morning basic session, Cindy Pekow was perfection during her introduction to Regulatory Basics. While the content is not all new, it’s still worth getting up at 4am in the morning for this session.  It’s packed with concise information that is perfect for folks new to the industry and for those of us lacking the early morning gene, it’s a great way to ease into the day, calmly reminded of the who’s, when’s and why’s that are the foundation of everything we do in support of our institutional research programs.

After lunch, NWABR hosted a departure from the strict regulatory topics in a panel of researchers who deal daily with non-rodent species in their work.  In the Beyond the Mouse Cage session, each of the speakers had something fantastic to say about how their efforts were benefiting man and animals as a whole.  Key elements were human emotion while caring for animals, the one-on-one correlation of disease (people/animal) and the environmental benefit.  For IACUC committees that don’t normally see issues with field work or hear pitfalls from the researcher’s perspective of the regulatory process, this session was enlightening and helpful.

In addition, there was the end of Conference Levity!  During the Compliance Updates, Taylor Bennett valiantly tried to remain seated but was repeatedly compelled by a greater force to launch from his seat to provide common sense responses to difficult questions. After each reply, he would return to his seat, only to pop right back up again.

Tena Petersen is a Manager of Regulatory Programs at the University of Washington Office of Animal Welfare.  She works closely with Preston Van Hooser, the OAW office co-sponsored Beyond the Gap post-conference activity and zebrafish facility Mock IACUC.​

Better Them Than Me? –Guest Blogger Saradha S.

NWABR features of series of volunteer guest bloggers over the next months who will be documenting programs, speakers and events. We thank each contributor for their time, talent and opinions.

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As a compassionate member of the public, my first professional foray into the much talked about field of bioethics happens next week.  I’m looking forward to a transition from coffee shop talk to finding out what really happens behind the scenes in biomedical research.

I come, as we all do, with questions. Is the scientific community really as unconcerned about bioethics as we make them out to be, or is there something that the public is missing here? While news pieces like this recent one get me thinking about the downside of using animals for research, it also makes me question all the big and small advantages I’ve (or anyone I care about) had from such research on animals, and it leads me to consider a conflict among the research fraternity about the best way to conduct animal research. How does such conflict get resolved? I want the real story.

It’s these and many such musings that drew me to NWABR and the 2015 IACUC conference organized in Seattle this February. I realized there was a lot more I needed to know about ethical research. I’m hoping that the IACUC conference will provide me an opportunity to learn more about how and why we consider our fellow living beings (animals) and how we are responsible to save, protect and treat them and beyond them, how we protect ourselves from disease and suffering. With luck this valuable forum enables our scientific community to interact among themselves and share their best practices to make sure animals are used in the most humane, painless and responsible manner. 

So I’m looking forward to catch a glimpse of the deliberation and debate around research animals and the role of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees gathered here!

Saradha is a Business development professional with international experience in marketing, inside sales and market research.  She brings her MS in Biotechnology with post-graduate studies in business development and several biotech industry internships to bear as a volunteer in the life sciences

Bridging the Gap at UW: A Post-Conference Networking Event and Zebrafish Facility Tour

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It’s a fun, limited space event for members and attendees. 

It’s all happening on Tuesday February 24th following the 2015 IACUC Conference.  NWABR in partnership with the University of Washington Office of Animal Welfare sponsors the 1st Annual behind-the-scenes look at various components of UW animal care and use program and a guided tour/mock IACUC inspection of one of their state-of-the-art zebrafish facilities. 

You wanted low-key and casual – and here it is, a networking event bringing together IACUC administrators/staff, researchers, educators, leaders, government officials and others who play a role in conducting outstanding service to the research community. It’s a bit of training and touring, a bit of lunch, and an interactive mock-iacuc review.

We’ll exchange ideas that are instrumental in creating a culture of compliance. Our goal is to strengthen IACUC administrative relationships throughout the region, and learn from each other.

If you have an interest in attending, email to Janine at conferences@nwabr.org.

Bring ideas and a notebook. We are stronger when we share ideas, best practices and passion.  We’ll see you there. 

Janine Kennedy

Conference Lead

Northwest Association for Biomedical Research