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Head of UF board resigns

A University of Florida neurologist has resigned as chairman of the board that reviews human research experiments just 10 weeks after a critical federal inspection.

"I am submitting my resignation as Chairman of the Institutional Review Board. I would like for this to be effective at the end of March," Dr. B. J. Wilder wrote in a Feb. 28 letter obtained by the Gainesville Sun for a Friday story.

The letter, which was not mentioned at the review board's meeting Wednesday, was sent to Karen Holbrook, vice president for research and development.

The Food and Drug Administration hit the university and review board with stiff sanctions Dec. 13 after an inspector found 20 deficiencies in the operation of the review board.

Problems included failing to report deaths and other "adverse events" to all members of panel, and orally approving research plans that should have gone to the full board.

Holbrook said Wilder's letter surprised her. But, she said, "He has given so much of himself for such a long time" that he might prefer to do something else.

Wilder retired from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center last summer but accepted a contract with the UF College of Medicine for $10,000 a year to continue as chairman of the review board.

Wilder has admitted cutting corners in obeying federal regulations but told the Sun he did so largely to spare the review board members additional work. He and officials have maintained that no human subjects were harmed as a result of the review board problems.

Wilder has served on the review board for 14 years and the past decade as chairman. He said in his resignation letter that a new manual for the board limits a chairman to a four-year term, and for that reason he should step down. Wilder was out of town Friday and could not be reached for comment.

He apologized in December for problems he might have caused the board, which is responsible for protecting human research subjects at UF, Shands Hospital and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Following closely behind the FDA reprimand, another federal agency took action because of the board's deficiencies.

The National Institutes of Health Office for Protection from Research Risks wrote that the board's problems indicated "serious failure of leadership" and recommended UF officials review that leadership.

During Wilder's tenure on the board, the number of research projects coming before the review board has grown from about 200 in 1980 to nearly 500 last year.