The opening ceremony started at 9:40am with an opening prayer by Rev. Fr. William Abaiku Apprey, Priest in charge of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish (STAP), Legon. This was followed by a welcome address by Prof. Ben Gyan who acted in locum tenens of the Institute’s director. In his opening remarks, he reiterated the importance of the workshop. He said inter alia that it will enhance the operations of IRBs in Ghana. He also pledged the institute’s continual support for the operations of the IRB which has been the norm since time immemorial. He finally welcomed all members and invitees to the workshop.
The chairman of the ceremony, Professor Michael David Wilson acknowledged the essence of harmonising the SOPs of Ethics Review Boards in Ghana. He further stated that the IRBs are guided by principles which vary across the globe and need to discuss the ones applicable to Ghanaian setting. He noted that discussing such principles and its harmonization across the country will prevent scouting by outsiders to look for IRBs in the country with loopholes in their SOPs to get their proposals approved easily at the peril of Ghanaian participants. In addition, Prof. Wilson stressed the need to enforce the deliberations and outcome of the workshop and also pushing for recognition in the country by government. Finally, he thanked the organizers of the workshop for their participation.
from left; Ms Baidoo, Prof. Wilson, Prof Ofori-Adjei and Prof. Gyan.
The President of GHAAREC, Ms. Helena Baidoo, said the need to harmonise IRB SOPs in Ghana was long overdue. She referenced some countries in Africa including Kenya, Tanzania, Egypt who have taken the lead, hence the need for Ghana to emulate such a move. Ms. Baidoo acknowledged that IRBs cannot have the same working document across board in terms of semantics however, they can come to a consensus on best practices and guidelines that will guide them in review processes all with the ultimate aim of protecting the rights, dignity, safety and the general wellbeing of participants as well as researchers in the conduct of health research. She acknowledged support received from her academic mentors and acknowledged the support she received at various levels in facilitating the organization of the workshop. She finally thanked members for coming.
The guest speaker, Professor David Ofori-Adjei, former Rector of Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons and Director of NMIMR, recounted the history of setting IRB in Ghana. He said the emergence of IRB in Ghana started 30 years ago with the request by WHO for ethical clearance before giving grants for clinical projects. So the IRB was established with the following proposed members: Dr. S. N. Afoakwa, former Director NMIMR, and Professor David Ofori-Adjei. This, he said, raised uproar at the College of Health Sciences that Noguchi had singular authority to establish the IRB. Eventually, the establishment halted for twelve years. However, ethical review and approval was conducted on research funded by WHO.
Professor Ofori-Adjei recounted that after twelve years, in November 1999, there was an STC meeting to review proposal on Herbal Preparation, and it became obvious that Noguchi who had STC needed the IRB to be set-up also to review the protocol. Then in December 1999, the institute had NIA grant which required the institution of the IRB. The funds from the NIA grant could not have been used to set up the IRB because its establishment was to review research proposals sponsored by the NIA. Later on, the European Developing Countries Research partnership grant was won which supported capacity building for about six IRBs. Noguchi IRB establishment rejuvenated and was triggered and facilitated by Dr. Moses Adibo and Professor Michael Wilson. This was consequently opposed by the College of Health Sciences that Noguchi alone had no right to review protocols for its ethical merits. It was consented that the college should be represented on the committee to get it running. Eventually, the establishment was recognised and the Federal Wide Assurance was obtained in 2000 granting the mandate to the NMIMR-IRB to review federal funded research from the USA .
Professor Ofori-Adjei then cited some challenges faced by the IRBs which included but not limited to increased workload, lack of infrastructure, lack of institutional support and lack of monitoring on approved projects etc. He further recommended the need for institutions to recognize the importance of the IRB operations. He also reiterated that IRB clearances are now requested before publications of research journals are done.
Finally, he stressed the need to produce a document at the end of the workshop that will act as reference point which will guide the operations of the IRB/REC across the country.
In his closing remarks, Professor Michael Wilson, the chairman, commended the Guest Speaker for the IRB history recounted and also charged members to move for the certification of researchers in human participants’ research. He thanked members for their comportment and entreated them to help fast track the process.