Human Subjects Research Guidance

Given the rise in COVID-19 cases in our area and the St. Louis County “Safer at Home” order starting November 17, 2020, Principal Investigators performing in-person human subjects research should consider the safety of their study participants. PIs should consider cancelling or postponing some human subjects research visits to  Danforth and Medical Center campuses that occur solely for the purposes of research. Participant research visits can continue when it is believed the benefit of participating is greater than the risk, including:

  1. potential benefit to the welfare of the participant (including direct benefits to the participant or indirect wider benefits to people with their condition), and
  2. the research visit is needed to prevent substantial compromise to the integrity of the study, thereby invalidating the participants’ previous service to the study. 

These judgements should be made by the PI of each study. 

With the COVID patient population rapidly increasing in our hospitals, many clinical procedures are being cancelled and clinical staff are being redeployed. Therefore, it is more important than ever that researchers ensure that clinical space, equipment and/or clinical personnel that are needed for the research have the capacity to accommodate the research prior to sending a participant to a clinical area.

General Guidance

Topic-Specific Guidance

Clinical Research Ramp Up

Current status: Yellow Yellow

Researchers can transition from orange to yellow when their school/department is ready, they have carefully developed their plans, and have all preparations in place. We anticipate that this transition will take a few weeks for most groups.

PIs can develop their plans, and if approved, may begin implementing them. PIs should carefully read the two documents below “Guidelines for Clinical Research Transitions – Orange to Yellow” and “Considerations in Re-Starting a Clinical Research Study”.

However, if conditions or the situation changes, Washington University leadership may decide to return to the Clinical Research – Orange or Red Level, and PIs and research teams should be prepared for this eventuality.  

Guidelines and Ramp Up Plans

Non-Clinical Research Ramp Up

Current status: Yellow Yellow

Non-clinical human subjects research is defined for this purpose as fundamental, basic research that occurs mostly in laboratories or offices, and involves human participants. Research that only involves using existing samples is not included in this definition.

As of August 5, non-clinical human subjects research can begin transitioning from Orange to Yellow level. PIs can develop their plans, and if approved, may begin implementing them. See the guidelines for ramping up non-clinical research in Box.

COVID-19 Research Studies

Washington University Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences is coordinating Washington University COVID-19 research activities to provide the logistical support necessary to ensure rapid and successful completion of studies. Research teams planning COVID-19 studies should submit a description of their work.

Submit COVID-19 Research


HRPO has set up a dedicated phone line and email account for questions about IRB requirements related to COVID-19.

Phone:  314-371-6189

Amanda Cashen, MD
IRB Executive Chair

Clinical Research
Suresh Vedantham, MD
Assistant Dean for Clinical Research

Jeanne Velders, JD
Executive Director of HRPO

Center for Clinical Studies
Yi Zhang, JD
Assistant Dean and Administrative Director of Clinical Studies