Coast to Coast Transcontinental Ethics Partnership

Coordinator: Jonas Lexow, MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM
Consortium Members: Ermias Diro/Niguse Yigzam, Gondar University; Okyere Boateng, Noguchi Memorial Institute; Yohannes Sitotaw, Ministry of Science and Technology Ethiopia

Independent ethical review is an essential requirement for medical research involving human participants, their biological materials or personal data. Robust review systems provide public assurance that research is carried out according to highest ethical and methodological standards, attract good quality research and drive scientific and economic development. Significant advances have been made in most Sub-Saharan African countries, yet challenges remain with embedding review in a national framework with ethics committee administration and composition and expertise of committee members.The EDCTP-funded “Coast to Coast Transcontinental Ethics Partnership” aims to address these issues by enabling a “South-South” collaboration with support of internationally recognised experts of ethics review in sub-Saharan Africa. To ensure wide applicability of the results to the region, Ethiopia, The Gambia and Ghana were selected for this coast-to-coast collaboration, representing a cross-section of sub-Saharan Africa in terms of country size and ethics review structures. The project is looking to evaluate strengths and weaknesses of the existing research ethics review systems in the participating countries. Following an initial assessment of existing structures and capacities, delegates from stakeholder institutions including a National Ethics Committee (NEC) and Research Ethics Committees/Institutional Review Boards (RECs/IRBs) will be invited to a first meeting during which assessment results will be presented and discussed. The meeting will be followed-up by a workshop to develop concrete proposals and strategies for the improvement of national and institutional review systems. Over the following year the consortium will work to implement actions and monitor progress in each country. The success of the proposed improvements will be evaluated at the end of the one year implementation phase. Outcomes and lessons learned will be discussed and translated into practical guidance that can be used as a model by other countries in the region. The “Coast to Coast Transcontinental Ethics Partnership” is expected to improve the ethics review process at national and institutional level in Ethiopia, The Gambia and Ghana, and to benefit other Sub-Saharan African countries, with positive effects for clinical research programs in this region.