Harmonising the human biobanking consent process: an Irish experience

Harmonising the human biobanking consent process: an Irish experience
Open Letter
Lydia O’Sullivan, Tomás Carroll, Niamh Clarke, Sarah Cooper, Ann Cullen, Laura Gorman, Billy McCann, Blánaid Mee, Nicola Miller, Verena Murphy, Máiréad Murray, Jackie O’Leary, Sharon O’Toole, Emma Snapes, Suzanne Bracken
HRB Open Research, 17 September 2021; 4(96)
Open Access
Abstract
Biobanks are repositories of human biological samples and data. They are an important component of clinical research in many disease areas and often represent the first step toward innovative treatments. For biobanks to operate, researchers need human participants to give their samples and associated health data. In Ireland, research participants must provide their freely given informed consent for their samples and data to be taken and used for research purposes. Biobank staff are responsible for communicating the relevant information to participants prior to obtaining their consent, and this communication process is supported by documentation in the form of Participant Information Leaflets and Informed Consent Forms (PILs/ICFs). PILs/ICFs should be concise, intelligible, and contain relevant information. While not a substitute for layperson and research staff discussions, PILs and ICFs ensure that a layperson has enough information to make an informed choice to participate or not. However, PILs/ICFs are often lengthy, contain technical language and can be complicated and onerous for a layperson to read. The introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the related Irish Health Research Regulation (HRR) presented additional challenges to the Irish biobank community. In May 2019, the National Biobanking Working Group (NBWG) was established in Ireland. It consists of members from diverse research backgrounds located in universities, hospitals and research centres across Ireland and a public/patient partner. The NBWG aimed to develop a suite of resources for health research biobanks via robust and meaningful patient engagement, which are accessible, GDPR/HRR-compliant and could be used nationally, including a PIL/ICF template. This open letter describes the process whereby this national biobank PIL/ICF template was produced. The development of this template included review by the Patient Voice in Cancer Research, led by Professor Amanda McCann at University College Dublin and the Health Research Data Protection Network.

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