News and Views

UCC academic appointed chair of one of Ireland’s first National Research Ethics Committees

14 May 2021
Prof Barry O'Sullivan, chair of Ireland’s first National Research Ethics Committee for Clinical Investigations of Medical Devices.

A University College Cork academic has been appointed chair of Ireland’s first National Research Ethics Committee for Clinical Investigations of Medical Devices (NREC-MD) by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.

Professor Barry O’Sullivan of UCC’s School of Computer Science & IT will chair a committee responsible for reviewing the ethics underpinning research proposals in the field of medical devices, with the aim of providing single national ethics opinions that are respected nationally. As such, NRECs will play a key role in protecting the safety, dignity and well-being of health research participants in Ireland.

“It is a huge honour for me to chair the NREC for Medical Devices,” Prof O’Sullivan said.

“A national approach to research ethics will help us create an integrated and supportive environment for the community to deal with the complex ethical and regulatory issues that are coming our way. Ireland is a major research hub for areas that are covered by the upcoming European Medical Device Regulation. It’s important that we work together and create a strong research ethics culture in the relevant areas.”
In total, 18 members have been appointed to each of three NRECs – two in clinical trials and one in medical devices.
The NRECs will review applications submitted through the National Office for Research Ethics Committees, and the National Office will support the new Committees in their work. Established last year, this new office is playing a key role in the reform of the research ethics review framework in Ireland, in partnership with the Department of Health.
Commenting on the appointments, Head of the National Office, Dr Jennifer Ralph James remarks:
“The launch of these NRECs heralds a new chapter for Irish health research, and supporting the newly appointed members in their important work is integral to the mission of the National Office.”
The establishment of these NRECs comes at an important juncture, as Ireland will soon be required to meet new obligations under two upcoming EU Regulations: the EU Clinical Trials Regulation and the EU Medical Device Regulation. And the new Committees are expected to deliver value for the Irish research ethics system as a whole, by streamlining the process of ethics review in the areas under their remit. By strengthening the infrastructure for health research in this way, the NRECs’ work can increase Ireland’s capability to carry out world-class research, and improve access to innovative medicines and services for Irish patients.


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