What is a Private IRB?

Private IRBs have no affiliation with specific clinical or academic institutions. They typically provide oversight into research studies that are not tied to an academic or clinical research facility, serve as a single reviewing body for studies operating across multiple sites, and/or review international studies. While there are many similarities between institutional IRBs and private IRBs, some differences exist.
All IRBs are subject to federal requirements for membership composition. Per §46.107 and §56.107, an IRB must have at least five members qualified through professional competence (experience and expertise). One advantage of a private IRB is the ability to incorporate members from diverse and expansive backgrounds. Many academic and clinical research IRBs are composed of members with experience related to their full-time role at the associated institution (school or medical facility). Private IRBs have the ability to utilize reviewers and consultants with expertise in specific subject areas or participant populations (e.g., prisoners, children, or pregnant women).
Another advantage of private IRBs is turnaround time. Institutional and clinical research IRBs typically meet monthly. A private IRB can process study applications on a timelier basis and convene a full board meeting as needed. The private IRB still adheres to the same federal guidelines as other IRBs, however their sole focus on research study reviews results in quicker turnaround times than what can be offered by institutional and clinical research IRBs where members have other duties to perform.
The composition of a private IRB allows for the review of any type of study; exempt, expedited, international and full board, regardless of whether the study is clinical, social,behavioral or educationsal in nature. Private IRBs provide options to researchers that have no affiliation with clinical or academic institutions to have studies reviewed and approved to satisfy funding requirements and/or lead to scholarly publishing of findings.

Author: Mary Lannon, PhD