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A trio of senators — including presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — wants more scrutiny of for-profit institutional review boards, which decide whether to green-light clinical trials.

In letters sent this week to the U.S.’s two largest commercial IRBs — WCG Clinical, better known as WIRB-Copernicus Group, and Advarra — the senators wrote that such boards “can be inherently vulnerable to conflicts of interest that could inhibit their ability to protect research subjects.” 


While academic and nonprofit IRBs review many of the clinical trials conducted at top academic medical institutions, the leading commercial IRBs — increasingly the product of consolidations — have become powerful decision makers in the world of clinical research. They get paid by study sponsors to assess whether proposals are ethical and have clinical and scientific merit.

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