Biobank Networks

Biobank networks set to multiply the access to the key resources for biomedical sciences.

The systematic examination of human samples in combination with their medical data over the last centuries has established the basis for the growing progress in medical sciences. This has led to the dramatic increase in knowledge on diseases as well as the development of new diagnostics, therapeutic interventions and medication strategies. Hence, biological samples are considered as key resources for the improvement of medicine (OECD 2001).

Today, trends in modern medicine develop towards personalized medicine including early detection of disorders and providing individual diagnostics, therapies and prognoses. Innovation is mainly addressing identification, validation and application of those biomarkers with increased stratification power.

Based on the rapid technological development, biomarker research has changed tremendously. On one hand technologies like NGS, single cell detection, and all -omics technologies combined with globally accessible databases and bioinformatics offer huge opportunities. On the other hand, international cooperations have disclosed the urgent need for standardization and harmonization of samples and data.

A single biobanking infrastructure cannot meet all the challenges described above. Therefore, networks of certified supra-regional biobanks need to be established. Such biobank networks sustain an efficient and purposive platform specifically designed to support systems biology approaches, biomarker and drug discovery and public health.

Around the globe, respective networks are developing. Examples such as the Australasian Biospecimen Network, the Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure (BBMRI), the Canadian Tumour Repository Network, CRIP, EuroBioBank and TMF are already in place. In parallel, increasing numbers of societies and organizations are helping in structuring the global biobanking efforts, such as the European, Middle East & African Society for Biopreservation and Biobanking (ESBB), the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER), and the Public Population Project in Genomics and Society (P3G).

Biobank Graz has been established as a certified (ISO 9001:2008) central interdisciplinary service facility at Medical University of Graz. Today, Biobank Graz is the largest academic biobank in Europe and provides the logistics and infrastructure to support research groups of the Medical University as well as extramural academic and industrial research partners worldwide.

Biobank Graz has a profound expertise in automation of collection and storage of samples, project development and the definition of cohorts and sample collections. Biobank Graz offers consulting and coaching for the development of new biobanks regarding management, staff training and implementation of infrastructure. Biobank Graz is involved in a variety of large national and European biobanking‐related research programs and benefits from the broad expertise in biobanking‐related technologies, such as sample stabilization, new applications of -omics technologies and data management.

Biobank Graz is already member/partner of biobanking organizations and networks to spread knowledge and communicate with other biobanks, researchers and companies, including BBMRI with its headquarter in Graz, the Austrian BBMRI.AT biobanking network, again with its headquarter in Graz, CRIP, ESBB, ISBER and TMF. Biobank Graz is also playing a major role in supporting countries in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) to establish their own biobanking infrastructures.

It is a great challenge for international biobank networks to meet the requirements of common sample quality standards in an ethical, legally adjusted environment. Each biobank needs to explore its economic justification, perform effective reporting and quantify economic and often non-profit performance. Common standards need to be defined on a high rather than low level and hence, only few biobanks may be able to join such high-standard networks. Supra-regional biobanks such as Biobank Graz mostly meet international standards and can add innovative implementations to the field of maintaining sample and data quality.

The sustainable exploration of and access to the key resource biological sample in biobanks needs to be assured by large pan‐European and even intercontinental research infrastructures and networks.

Prof. Berthold Huppertz, PhD

Director and CEO, Biobank Graz

Medical University of Graz

Stiftingtalstraße 3.1

8010 Graz, Austria

Tel: +43 31 63 85 72 716


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