Background: Clinical research studies often integrate precision medicine technologies and techniques, offering novel treatment opportunities for patients but also posing significant challenges for regulatory authorities and local institutional review boards (IRBs) as they attempt to protect patient safety and privacy. Methods: We review the basics of precision medicine and discuss how IRBs are addressing new challenges associated with the era of precision medicine. Results: Precision medicine trials rely on genomic testing for inclusion criteria and investigational drug therapy choices. The vast amounts of complex information that can be obtained from basic genetic sequencing tests must be stored, analyzed, and interpreted, creating challenges for clinicians, researchers, and regulatory staff who are concerned with complex ethical, security, and legal issues surrounding patients' personal genetic data in the digital age. All members of the IRB face a rapidly changing environment. The traditional areas of primary concern, such as patient privacy, terminology, and financial benefits, have been joined by issues associated with precision medicine, such as accelerated US Food and Drug Administration drug approval, multiple informed consent form modifications, increasing length and complexity of informed consent forms, and participant genetic privacy. The challenge to the IRB is to remain focused on the prior areas of significance while also adapting the evaluation process to the novel science of precision medicine. Conclusion: In this era of exponentially increasing big data and easy-to-access genetic sequencing data, IRBs will be tasked with adapting their processes and adjusting to the new technology and its corresponding complexities. Such adaptation has always been required of IRBs, but now it will need to occur rapidly as technology and data analysis capabilities accelerate.
Keywords: Ethics; ethics committees; genetic privacy; genomics; precision medicine; research.
©2020 by the author(s); Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY).