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  • Washington Highlights

    NIH Announces Meeting of Human Fetal Tissue Research Ethics Advisory Board

    Christa Wagner, Manager, Government Relations
    Heather Pierce, Senior Director, Science Policy & Regulatory Counsel

    The National Institutes of Health (NIH) published a notice of a virtual meeting of the Human Fetal Tissue Research Ethics Advisory Board on July 15 in the Federal Register. The meeting will take place on July 31 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will be open to the public from 10-11:05 a.m.

    The July 31 meeting will be the first for the newly formed Ethics Advisory Board, one component of a set of new fetal tissue research policies the administration announced in June 2019. A call for nominees to the 15-member board was issued in February [see Washington Highlights, Feb. 21], and the membership has not yet been announced.

    Board members will review grant applications that have been selected for funding and propose to use human fetal tissue during the July 31 meeting. According to the board’s charter, it “will advise, consult with, and make recommendations to the Secretary of Health and Human Services regarding the ethics of research involving human fetal tissue proposed in NIH grant and cooperative agreement applications and R&D contract proposals.”

    The AAMC joined nearly 100 organizations in a March letter to President Donald Trump to lift the restrictions on NIH-funded research using human fetal tissue to allow all biomedical research tools to be available for the development of new vaccines and cures to respond to COVID-19 [see Washington Highlights, March 27].

    The House Appropriations Committee passed its draft fiscal year 2021 spending bill on July 13, which includes report language related to the timely evaluation of research proposals, directing the NIH to “ensure that any research proposal reviewed by an Ethics Advisory Board described by [the Public Health Service Act] is evaluated within the same timeframe as research proposals not subject to review by an Ethics Advisory Board” (see related story).

    According to the notice for the July 31 meeting, a 20-minute public comment period will be held during the open session and interested parties should notify the meeting contact person at least four days in advance to reserve a time slot.