ISB Q&A: Chris Witwer, CIP
Q: What is your role as the Associate Director for Compliance?
CW: I am responsible for providing leadership on complex risk management issues, ensuring program accountability, and driving the Institute’s compliance efforts in a complex, often ambiguous, regulatory environment. Primary areas of responsibility include: human subjects research, investigator conflicts of interest, export control, and responsible conduct in research.
Q: Why is it necessary and important for ISB to have this oversight?
CW: ISB is committed to broadly sharing the knowledge we gain through our research endeavors. To do that effectively, we must ensure public trust in our work. Following certain scientific and ethical norms allows us to meet the expectations of the scientific community, regulatory bodies, research sponsors, and the public at large.
Q: What’s an example of an ISB project that has required your involvement and what has been your role in that project?
CW: Dr. Lee Hood’s 100 Person Wellness Project is a great example. I was responsible for obtaining Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval of the project. An IRB is an independent group that determines whether the research is acceptable under current regulations and ethical norms – and whether risks to participants are reasonable in relation to anticipated benefits. I am honored to have contributed in a number of ways, including putting together IRB application materials; providing study-specific IRB training; helping draft the study protocol and consent form; instituting a process to report any problems to the IRB; monitoring participant website activity; and advising on off-study activities such as media interaction.
Q: Why does this field of work interest you?
CW: I became interested in human research ethics after going blind in one eye 15 years ago. When my vision was quickly restored, the doctors high-fived one another and asked me to sign a research consent form. I felt used and wished they had informed me of the risks so I could have made an informed decision about whether to be in the research Later, I saw a job ad for “protecting human research subjects” and haven’t looked back. The ethical issues surrounding the human research enterprise are endless and fascinating. At ISB, I apply my skill set more broadly since we don’t have an internal IRB. I was attracted to ISB’s interdisciplinary nature, and P4 Medicine in particular.