Institutional Conflicts of Interest (ICOI)

An Institutional conflict of interest (Institutional COI or ICOI) describes a situation in which the financial interests of an institution or an institutional official, acting within his or her authority on behalf of the institution, may pose risk of undue influence that affect the research, education, clinical care, business transactions, or other activities of the institution.

Such risks often involve the conduct of research within the institution that might have a bearing on the value of ECU’s patents or equity positions or options in biotechnology, pharmaceutical, or medical device companies. Conflicts of interest may also arise at the institutional level in seeking and receiving gifts or grants from companies (for example, a gift of an endowed university chair or a grant for a professional society to develop a clinical practice guideline).  (Institute of Medicine of the National Academies)

Institutional conflicts of interest may also occur when senior officials who act on behalf of the institution have personal financial interests that may be affected by their administrative decisions.

For example, a department chair or dean who has a major equity holding in a medical device company could make decisions about faculty appointments and promotions or assignment of office or laboratory space in ways that favor the interests of the company but compromise the overall research, educational, or clinical mission of the institution. Similarly, a hospital official with such a holding would be at risk of undue influence in making decisions about the use of the company’s products for patient care. In these instances, an individual’s financial relationship also implicates the institution’s interests.  (Institute of Medicine of the National Academies)

For more information on Institutional Conflicts of Interest and how they relate to the public trust, you can read a recent editorial from JAMA.

Potential ICOI Situations

Institutional financial interests can be created by gifts, payments, royalty income, or other financial benefits provided to the University from for-profit entities or from equity interest held by the University in the entities.  Examples of institutional financial interests include:

  • Payments resulting from the transfer (licensing) of technology created at the University to an entity, including royalties, milestone payments, and other licensing fees;
  • Equity in (i.e., ownership of) a company (publicly or non-publicly traded) resulting from the transfer of University technology or from direct investment;
  • Gifts, including gifts-in-kind of goods or services, from a potential sponsor (i.e., a commercial company), from a philanthropic unit of the sponsor, or from an individual affiliated with a sponsor; and
  • Covered Official relationships where an institutional official receives payments, honoraria, royalties, equity, options and warrants, company positions (e.g., board directorships and/or management), or gifts.

A potential ICOI situation arises when the company also sponsors research at the university or manufactures products to be studied or tested at ECU or under its auspices.

Financial interests of the University must be identified, disclosed, and reviewed to prevent or manage institutional conflicts of interest that may affect (or reasonably appear to affect) institutional processes for the design, conduct, reporting, review, or oversight of research.  

ICOI Management

Management strategies for identified institutional conflicts of interest may include, but not limited to:

  • Permitting the research to proceed, subject to a plan for managing the ICOI and any personal conflicts of interest (COI);
  • Permitting the research to proceed, with divestiture of the financial interests of the University and individual investigators; or
  • Prohibiting the research from taking place at the University.