All USC faculty, staff and students are assigned a USC NetID account, also known as Shibboleth or enterprise account. This is essential to access systems in the university (email, iStar IRB submission system).
Some USC schools and departments maintain additional local systems such as Health Science Campus’s Medmail. Contact your departmental administrator to determine exactly which accounts you will need to activate.
iStar is the online system used to submit research protocols for review and approval by the IRB. iStar registration is required prior to submitting a protocol. To register an account in iStar go to istar.usc.edu. Protocols are reviewed for compliance with regulations of human subjects research (IRB), animal research, radiation safety and biosafety. The human subjects submission forms of iStar are used both at USC and CHLA. IRB approval is required before recruitment can begin.
Training and Certification
Investigators and staff who engage in research are required to complete courses specific to their responsibilities in research. The following links provide instructions for registration and training certifications. Additional training may be required by certain offices or sponsors. CITI course information and access.
Study sponsors may require and provide additional training.
At USC, research trials are managed in two different workflows depending on whether the funding source is industry (corporate sponsorship) or non-industry (federal monies, foundations, or grants). New trials should be directed to either the CTO or DCG (see below), according to the funding source. An MCA (Medicare Coverage Analysis) is required for most industry and non-industry trials, which means that while DCG will handle the contract, the CTO will need to complete the MCA.
Clinical Trials Office (CTO)
CTO provides Medicare Coverage Analyses (MCA), budgeting, contracting and sponsor relations for industry funded clinical trials. CTO also provides MCA for non-industry clinical trials. All industry sponsored trials (and non-industry sponsored trials that will incur healthcare professional fees and/or facilities billing) must be submitted to the Clinical Trials Office.
OnCore – Clinical Trial Management System
OnCore is a web-based Clinical Trial Management System (CTMS) used by CTO for managing industry sponsored clinical trials. All industry sponsored trials (and non-industry sponsored trials that will incur healthcare professional fees and/or facilities billing) must be submitted into OnCore.
- OnCore Training and Support Information: firstname.lastname@example.org
- OnCore Training Resources
- OnCore Login
Department of Contracts and Grants (DCG)
With the exception of industry sponsored clinical trials, all contract and grant proposals at USC must be submitted to the USC DCG, after proposal and budget preparation by the investigators’ school(s). The CTO conducts Medicare Coverage Analyses (MCA) for non-industry as well as industry trials.
KC is used for grant proposal review/approval, establishment of awards, and tracking of negotiations.
Sponsored Projects Accounting
Sponsored Projects Accounting (SPA) manages the post-award financial management of non-industry clinical trials. This includes working closely with study teams, school administration and DCG on tasks such as account establishment, letter of credit drawdowns, invoicing, collection, payment application, expense transfers, financial reporting (if applicable), and generally helping ensure appropriate management of sponsored funds.
Research trials at USC require IRB approval as well as approval from specific research committees depending on the materials and methods of the trial.
Need Guidance on Starting a Clinical Study at USC?
The study navigation tool will help you determine where to go to activate your clinical research study at USC, including contracting offices, review committees, and ancillary services. Based on your answers to basic questions (type of funding, study location), it displays the primary units and systems you can expect to interact with on the road to study activation. Note: there may be exceptions, depending on your specific circumstances.
The Institutional Review Board (IRB) is a committee charged with reviewing, approving and monitoring research projects involving human subjects for compliance with institutional policies and state, local, and federal laws. The committee includes faculty, staff and members of the community. The IRB reviews clinical research as well as social-behavioral research. The IRB also serves the function of HIPAA Privacy Board.
Ancillary Regulatory Committees
Certain research activities require additional regulatory committee reviews and approvals (in addition to IRB oversight):
Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute (SC CTSI)
The SC CTSI is a research institute of the University of Southern California (USC) and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA). The SC CTSI provides help with biostatistics, clinical research informatics, training and education, community engagement, team building, and funding for projects.
The SC-CTSI Clinical Research Support offices at USC and CHLA assist with research navigation, budgeting and contracting, study coordination, participant recruitment, and regulatory advice.
The Clinical Trials Unit (CTU) supports complex, high-risk clinical trials and provides ad hoc services such as blood sample acquisition and processing.
SC CTSI activities include:
Clinical Investigator Support Office (CISO)
The Clinical Investigational Support Office (CISO) is the clinical research infrastructure of Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. CISO personnel assist investigators with the conduct of all oncology trials for which USC is a Lead Academic Participation Site, including oncology trials at LAC+USC Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA). As one of the original eight NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, USC Norris’s Clinical Investigational Support Office has been managing clinical trials for over 20 years.
All Norris studies are required by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to be overseen by CISO. Studies that include cancer patients as a sub-population and not the main focus/objective of the research may not be required to be submitted to CISO.
Contact CISO to discuss how this requirement applies to any specific study.
Office for the Protection of Research Subjects
The Office for the Protection of Research Subjects (OPRS) operates under the direction of the Vice President of Research. OPRS is responsible for establishing the IRB policies for USC as well as identifying and implementing best practices to ensure continued USC accreditation. Additional responsibilities include oversight of USC IRBs as well as providing education to the human subjects research community.
Office of Research
The Office of Research is responsible for all aspects of research administration, research ethics and research advancement for the university. The office invests in research initiatives, encourages sponsored-research, and provides resources to promote high ethical standards in research.
Office of the Chief Information Officer
The Office of the CIO oversees data protection. The office mission is to offer direction and support for the effective application and integration of information technology to improve the teaching, learning, research, and administrative environment of the university.
USC Laboratories and Services
There are over 60 research laboratories and services located at the University of Southern California main campus (UPC), Health Science Campus (HSC), and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA).
Laboratory services include hematology, radiology, materials imaging, flow cytometry, histology and pathology, spectroscopy, cell culture and analysis.
- Point of Care Testing Information
- USC Laboratories and Services
- Keck School of Medicine USC/Pathology
- Laboratory Agreement and Utilization Worksheet (Lab Research Agreement Form) Oct 2021
- Laboratory License and Related Documents Request Form (May 2021)
- Department of Radiology
Research at Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center
USC and LAC+USC have established an agreement for the conduct of clinical research including billing and approvals for research services conducted at LAC+USC. For more information, visit Research at LAC
Investigational Drug Services (IDS) for Drugs & Biologics
Research involving any investigational drugs or biologics is the responsibility of the USC IDS Pharmacy. Investigational drug or biologics receipt, accountability, storage, compounding, dispensing and disposition are managed in compliance with the FDA, industry sponsors, State and Federal Regulations. This responsibility applies to research conducted at any of these facilities:
- Keck Hospital of USC
- USC Norris Cancer Hospital
- Clinical Trials Unit at Norris
- Outpatient clinics
- LAC+USC Medical Center
- Maternal Child and Adolescent Research
Investigational Device Services:
Prior to being used in a study, devices for research must be cleared for safety and hazard potential by Keck and Norris Hospitals purchasing departments. A purchase order must be obtained, even if the sponsor is providing the item free of charge. In order to comply with State and Federal regulations and accreditation requirements, no piece of equipment, device or supply may be brought directly into the hospital. Everything must be received through hospital materials management.
All vendor representatives must be registered and must sign in daily through Reptrax. Any person who is not an employee or faculty of Keck or Norris Hospital must obtain permission to be on premises. This is accomplished by contacting:
Hospital Medical Staff Office
Persons entering the OR and/or contacting/observing a patient must have proof of negative TB test. From October 1 through March 31, persons contacting/observing a patient must provide evidence of flu vaccination. There are no exceptions to these health clearance requirements.
Complete the Research Associate Questionnaire to pursue research associate credentialing for Keck Medical Center of USC.
Supplies and materials:
Hospital operations and logistics:
The Food and Drug Administration regulates all drugs, biologics and devices whether used for investigational purposes or seeking approval for marketing.
To conduct a clinical investigation of a drug, biologic, or device, FDA must approve the research. For an investigational new drug an IND application is required. For an investigational device an IDE application is required. The FDA may determine the research is exempt from the IND or IDE requirement.
In most cases, the clinical trial sponsor files the IND(Investigational New Drug Application) or IDE(Investigational Device Exemption). If an investigator holds an IND or IDE the investigator assumes the responsibilities of both an investigator and a sponsor.
Investigational Drugs and Biologics
An Investigational New Drug (IND) application is the document submitted to the FDA for permission to conduct a clinical study using a drug or biologic that is new or being used for an unapproved dosage, formulation or indication. If a study does not require an IND, the investigator must provide the IRB with an FDA determination of IND exemption.
An Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) application must be submitted to FDA to allow for the conduct of a clinical study using a significant risk device that is new or not approved for a given use (A significant risk device presents a potential for serious risk to the health, safety, or welfare of a subject).
If the investigation involves the use of a device that does not pose significant risk to humans (a non-significant risk device), an IDE application to FDA is not required. Submissions for non-significant risk devices are made directly to the IRB. The sponsor-investigator must explain to the IRB why the device does not pose a significant risk.
If compensation will be provided to study participants, in lieu of cash, it must be made in the form of a ClinCard (debit card) for recurring payments, or a single payment Prepaid One-Time Card. Request for both cards may be processed via USC eMarket request forms.
USC utilizes on-line systems for most research administration processes, in addition to OnCore:
TARA is the portal linking to research administration systems at USC. With the exceptions noted below, TARA does not support research conducted at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA).
Conflict of Interest
diSClose is a system for USC Employees to disclose any possible conflicts of interest. Any outside financial relationships with pharmaceutical or device companies must be disclosed in diSClose regardless of whether research is involved.
Researchers who are proposing or have received support from the US Deptartment of Health and Human Services (including NIH, CDC, HRSA, and AHRQ) must also make an annual disclosure of all financial interests related to their institutional responsibilities to USC, regardless of whether any of these interests give rise to a conflict of interest related to their research.
A regulatory binder is a set of records maintained for each clinical trial. The documents include all submissions and communications with the IRB and other ancillary committees, investigator brochure, and protocol. The following documents are commonly required in the study binder:
USC IRB Membership Rosters
The lists of members on the USC Institutional Review Boards are periodically updated and posted on the following sites.
Federalwide Assurances (FWAs)
The University of Southern California maintains assurances of compliance, called Federalwide Assurances (FWAs), with the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) in the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The University is required to enter into this agreement because it receives federal funding for research involving human subjects. It is an assurance that USC follows a statement of principles governing the institution in the discharge of its responsibilities for protecting the rights and welfare of human subjects of research.
Certificates for Required Training
Copies of the certifications obtained for all required training should be filed in the regulator binder for the study.
GCP Compliance Statement
21 CFR Part 11 Compliance Statement
The following documents ensure that the USC’s iStar system and the Keck Medical Center electronic medical records system are compliant with FDA Part 11.
USC Emergency Management and Business Continuity Plan
The emergency management and business continuity plan support USC’s central mission of teaching, research, and service by preparing schools and departments to resume critical operations rapidly following a disaster. The university maintains backup and recovery plans to protect against the loss of vital data due to an adverse event or disaster. The following links are provided to USC Emergency Management, Business Continuity and IT Disaster Recovery policies:
- USC Policy Emergency Management
- USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan
Clinical Trials Must Be Registered to ClinicalTrials.gov
ClinicalTrials.gov is a registry and results database of publicly and privately supported clinical research studies. Registration of clinical research studies is required by law prior to study enrollment. Protocol Registration System (PRS) is the Clinicaltrials.gov system used to register and update studies.
HHS has expanded the legal requirements for registering and submitting results for clinical trials involving FDA-regulated drug, biological and device products. National Institutes of Health has issued a complimentary policy for all NIH-funded clinical trials including phase 1 studies and clinical trials of behavioral interventions.
Health outcome studies must be registered in clinicaltrials.gov before enrolling subjects
This requirement applies to:
- All NIH-funded clinical trials of behavioral interventions or non-FDA-regulated products.
- Clinical trials involving FDA-regulated drug, biologic and device products
- Any study intended for publication in a journal complying with the ICMJE (International Committee of Medical Journal Editors) or other publication that requires registration to clinicaltrials.gov