$1.1M Grant From Fogarty International Center to Enhance Research Ethics in Region

The Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health awarded a $1.1 million USD grant to an international team of ethicists concentrating on an emerging need in the Caribbean region and Latin America. The grant went to St. George’s University’s Dr. Cheryl Cox-Macpherson, a Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation Senior Research Fellow and Chair of the Bioethics Department, and colleagues Dr. Sean Philpott of Union Graduate College in the United States and Dr. Robert Hall of Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro in Mexico.

Team members note the recent growth in the number of clinical trials and other human subject research studies conducted in the low- and middle-income countries that border the Caribbean basin as a compelling reason to develop additional research ethics capacity and infrastructure. Only a handful of regional programs now provide investigators, ethics committee members, and other stakeholders with the necessary training in bioethics and research ethics.

Dr. Cox-Macpherson leads the resulting Caribbean Research Ethics Education Initiative, a five-year program to develop and sustain a Caribbean cadre of graduate-level teachers of research ethics, a Caribbean research ethics network, an English-speaking center of excellence in research ethics at St. George’s, and a Spanish-speaking center of excellence at the Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro. Dr. Philpott will manage the program, Dr. Hall will head up training for Caribbean Spanish-speaking trainees, and Dr. Cox-Macpherson for the Caribbean English-speaking trainees.

These centers will house related resources, technology, and expertise for use by program faculty, trainees, alumni, and others. Through relationships with national and international organizations, governments, and professional societies, the Program Directors will recruit promising candidates from the Caribbean. Those selected will become part of a Train the Trainer process to ensure sustainability of the program.

“I’m excited about the opportunity for capacity building for research ethics in the region, and for being part of the partnerships and networks that emerge during the process,” Dr. Cox-Macpherson said. “Expertise in this topic is vital to protecting health in today’s world, and is also evidence of the ability to think rationally and objectively about other issues affecting Caribbean health and well-being.”

Dr. Philpott concurs. “Failing to do so puts the 260 million residents of the region at risk, as their safety and rights as research subjects are likely to be compromised unless there is a robust system of regulatory review and oversight.”

This program is a natural evolution for the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation, which established one of the first Institutional Review Boards in the region 20 years ago. In response to a rapid increase in research activity, St. George’s University assumed the responsibility of the Foundation’s review board in 2002. It remains the only Institutional Review Board in the region that is registered with the Office of Human Research Protections at the US Department of Health and Human Services.