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SERU Celebrates A Decade in Ethical Research.

SERU reviewers pose for a photo with the Acting DG Dr. Martin Bundi shortly after the training.

The Institute’s Scientific and Ethics Review Unit (SERU) held a three-day reviewers training as it marked a decade of excellence and innovation in ethical research clearance since the introduction of a two-tier review system of research protocols in 2014.

The two-tier review system enables research protocols reviewed at the Centre Scientific Committee (CSC) before transiting to SERU unlike the three-tier system which included SSC reviews. This restructuring of research regulation allowed SSC to focus on. key institutional activities of being a scientific making organ by formulating policies and framework guiding scientific research in the institution.

The primary focus of the training was to capacity build the reviewers through a designed comprehensive training program. It was facilitated by experts in bioethics and covered topics on Post Approval Research Monitoring, Ethical considerations in qualitative and quantitative research, genetic testing of participants and genome wide analysis, data handling storage and re-use and sharing, informed consent requirements for studies exporting samples and emerging ethical issues in AI and machine learning.

The sessions were backed up with questions answered in the question and answer sessions and interactive group discussions which promoted critical thinking and team work among the reviewers.

A section of reviewers following through presentations during the training.
Prof. Charles Obonyo highlighting a point during the Question and answer session while Serah Gatome looks on.

The rigorous training sessions involved engaging team building activities in the afternoon designed to strengthen interpersonal relationships and to foster a collaborative spirit. These sessions were facilitated by Prof Elizabeth Bukusi who brought in well-caved ideas through outdoor activities that enhanced trust, communication and problem-solving skills among team members and reflective sessions which enabled the team members to resonate the activities with the effort put in their respective teams.

Prof Elizabeth Bukusi leading reviewers through the team building exercise.
Team Building Activity

While highlighting the strides that SERU has undertaken since its inception, Mr. Enock Kebenei Head SERU, commended the reviewers for the efforts that have seen the Unit achieve its mandate and lauded the committees for executing all the meetings as planned, “ I am grateful as the Head of the Unit to have seen that the committees are actively engaged in their work which has seen meetings executed as planned and looking at how far we have come the research integrity at KEMRI is going far, courtesy of the reviewers,” he said.

Mr. Enock Kebenei Head SERU sharing a light moment with the acting DG Dr. Martin Bundi during the training.
Dr. Martin Bundi giving his remarks during the closing ceremony.

10 years on, the Unit has seen transition from paper to electronic inclusive digitization of records at the Archives and all non KEMRI proposals digitized. Equally, all the annual renewals except trials are now reviewed on a rolling basis and reports presented to the full committee for ratification which has reduced the turn around time for annual renewals. Further, reviewer appreciation and charging policy approved and implemented in April 2019, shortened review turnaround time. The unit has also made various strides inclusive: establishment of research Intergrity Committee, increasing research in bioethics, increased visibility of SERU through continued sensitization and trainings, reminder system for inactive studies and development of guidance documents.

It was equally noted that the achievements highlighted were made possible under the selfless leadership of Prof Elizabeth Bukusi, Dr. Evans Amukoye, Dr. Betty Njoroge, Dr. Mercy Karimi, Prof. Charles Obonyo and Mr. Enock Kebenei. A celebratory mood greeted the third day of the training as it served as a day to commemorate the Unit’s 10 years of existence in an event graced by Acting DG Dr. Martin Bundi. Dr. Samoel Khamadi, who represented the Director Research and Development applauded the Unit for its continued pursuit to increase efficiency while maintaining quality, “ I congratulate you all for taking SERU to greater heights , I am aware that there are more than 40 accredited IRBs in Kenya, but KEMRI SERU remains to be the go to IRB due to its outstanding reputation globally and locally and I urge you to maintain the quality of reviews while continually improving on efficiency,” he said. His sentiments were echoed by Dr. Bundi who appreciated the role played by SERU in research regulation and outside the institution and encouraged the reviewers to forge forward and maximize on the opportunities available in the area, “I want to thank you for maintaining high quality reviews and maintaining a competitive edge over other ERCs in the country and as you continue to protect the rights welfare of human subjects enrolled in research I would like to reiterate the continued support from the KEMRI leadership,” he said.

The event was highlighted by the launch of the SERU documentary and a cake cutting event which marked the significant strides in ethical research. Outgoing reviewers including Prof. Philip Bejon CGMR-C, Dr. Patrick Munywoki CDC, Dr. Vincent Were APHRC and Dr. Doris Njomo ESACIPAC were also celebrated.

Dr. Martin Bundi and Dr. Samoel Khamadi leading the cake cutting session.

SERU has pledged its commitment to its mission of promoting ethical research and plans to invest in professional development of its reviewers and exploring new strategies to address emerging ethical challenges in ethical research going forward.

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