Top 5 Considerations for Evaluating IACUC Systems

This post is part of a Bad Rabbit series on selecting ERA systems:

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Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) systems can increase compliance and productivity, make your animal research protocols run more smoothly, and reduce  burden for IACUC reviewers and administrators. But choosing the right electronic IACUC system can be a lengthy and intimidating process.

In this system selection guide, we look at the most important considerations for evaluating IACUC systems. At the end, you’ll find a vendor list with links to available options.

Whether you’re evaluating an eIACUC module that integrates with your animal operations software, looking for a more robust IACUC to keep up with a growing volume of studies, or in search of a replacement for an existing IACUC system that hasn’t met expectations, there’s an IACUC to meet your needs.

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1. Research/Protocol Volume

How many IACUC protocols does your institution process annually? For research institutions with heavier human subject loads and much smaller animal research departments, a simpler IACUC system may be enough.

If your institution conducts a high volume of animal research, or exclusively animal research, you may require a more robust eIACUC that integrates with animal operations software. Ask yourself:

  • How large is your staff?

  • Is your volume growing, lessening, or remaining the same?

  • Do you need your IACUC system to integrate with Animal Ops? What about your IBC, Facilities, or other research administration systems?

High volume IACUC offices require efficiency. If resources are stretched thin trying to keep up with volume, consider upgrading to a more robust eIACUC.

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2. Narrative vs. Building Block Approach

This is one of the most important consideration when evaluating IACUC systems: how are your protocols constructed? The traditional approach is narrative-driven, in which researchers essentially write the story of their research from objective and hypothesis through process. However, as RA software and technology mature, more and more IACUCs are using a building block approach in which investigators construct protocols by selecting elements from built-in libraries of common practices and substances.

The building block approach reduces investigator burden by making it faster and easier for PIs to construct a protocol, and increases compliance by ensuring best practices are used. It also speeds up the review process, as reviewers proceed with the understanding that included procedures have already been approved. From protocol construction through review, a building block approach reduces burden. However, it does have higher set-up costs, and requires more complex technology than the traditional approach.

If you have a high volume IACUC, a system utilizing the building block approach is well worth the investment. If your volume is relatively low, it might not be a priority.

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3. IT Capabilities & Needs

The in-house IT support available at your institution influences which research administration software provider you choose. If you have mature IT capability and resources, you may be able to support a more complex IACUC system.

In particular, if you identify compelling business reasons to customize your IACUC, you’ll want to prioritize vendors who offer customizable software that your in-house staff can configure to suit your needs. On the other hand, if your organization has a smaller IT staff offering minimal support, an out-of-the-box, cloud-hosted IACUC system may be a better choice.

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4. Review Process

The IACUC review process tends to be very in-depth, requiring reviewers to cross-reference hundreds of pages of material. Depending on protocol volume at your research institution, robust review capabilities may be an important factor in choosing an IACUC.

In-system review can simplify and speed up the review process with features such as:

  • Online review and approval for IACUC office and committee members

  • Track changes and side-by-side versions

  • Action item notifications sent to reviewers and investigators

  • Automatically generated meeting agendas, minutes, and related correspondence

When evaluating IACUC software, consider how beneficial such features might be toward reducing burden and streamlining the review process.  

Click here to read a case study about how Bad Rabbit developed an inline collaborative review tool that integrates with existing IACUC systems, saving time and reducing burden for reviewers and back office administrators.

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5. Animal operations system integration

In animal research, IACUC oversees the compliance and approval process, and animal operations runs the animal facility. Typically, there needs to be close integration between IACUC and animal ops systems; for example, IACUC approves the number of animals allowed in a study, but the animals will need to be ordered through animal ops—this is one of the more common integrations between the two systems.

If you already have a satisfactory animal ops system in place, you may find it most efficient to use the same vendor’s IACUC. Likewise, if you already have an IACUC, the same vendor may offer an animal ops system that comes “pre-integrated.” If you have reason to prefer separate software vendors for these two systems, you’ll need to consider the integration possibilities.

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IACUC Software Vendors

The right IACUC will help streamline protocol construction and review processes, communicate with animal ops, and ease burden for investigators, reviewers, and administrative staff. The table below lists common IACUC vendors and is provided for informational purposes only. Please view product webpages for details and reach out with any suggestions or omissions.

Product Description
A-tune Software for laboratory animal research facilities and research compliance & management.
Cayuse IACUC Cayuse IACUC (formerly eSirius IACUC) efficiently manages a protocol’s entire lifecycle from authorship to end of study, lessening turnaround time, improving internal communications, and reducing the risk of noncompliance for your research organization. Integrates with Cayuse IBC and eSirius Facilities Management.
Huron Research Suite Designed to simplify protocol construction, improve turnaround times, and improve collaboration among key stakeholders through all IACUC activities. Part of the Huron Research Suite, a comprehensive suite of software solutions for managing Agreements, Animal Operations, Clinical Trials, Conflict of Interest, Grants, IACUC, IRB, Safety Committees and Effort Reporting.
iMedRIS IACUC Module Efficient, VA-compliant IACUC software makes it possible for animal researchers and administrators to review all protocol documents and electronically submit forms. Pairs with iMedRIS ARC animal facility software.
infoEd Animal Studies/IACUC Web-based system withprotocol tracing, alerts, reporting, and electronic letters. Provides full data integration into the comprehensive InfoEd eRA Suite.
Key Solutions IACUC Compliance module facilitates the review and monitoring of every research protocol involving animals, both USDA species and otherwise. Can be integrated with other eProtocol modules and Facility Management and Lab Animal Health Program modules.
Topaz Technologies Animal ProtocolsPart of a suite of integrated applications enabling automated workflows from protocol reviews to staff training, animal procurement to census, billing, and veterinary care.
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If you’re feeling overwhelmed by options, or already have an IACUC in place but need customizations, Bad Rabbit can help. Reach out today to tell us about your needs. We don’t promote any particular software; we just want to help you find the right fit, and make sure you get the most out of your IACUC system.