Each year funding agencies and academic institutions spend millions of dollars and euros on biobanking. All funding providers assume that after initial investments biobanks should be able to operate sustainably. However the topic of sustainability is challenging for the discipline of biobanking for several major reasons: the diversity in the biobanking landscape, the different purposes of biobanks, the fact that biobanks are dissimilar to other research infrastructures and the absence of universally understood or applicable value metrics for funders and other stakeholders. In this article our aim is to delineate a framework to allow more effective discussion and action around approaches for improving biobank sustainability. The term sustainability is often used to mean fiscally self-sustaining, but this restricted definition is not sufficient for biobanking. Instead we propose that biobank sustainability should be considered within a framework of three dimensions – financial, operational, and social. In each dimension, areas of focus or elements are identified that may allow different types of biobanks to distinguish and evaluate the relevance, likelihood, and impact of each element, as well as the risks to the biobank of failure to address them. Examples of practical solutions, tools and strategies to address biobank sustainability are also discussed.
The high burden of infectious diseases and the growing problem of noncommunicable and metabolic disease syndromes in South Africa (SA) forces a more focused research approach to facilitate cutting-edge scientific growth and public health development. Increased SA research on these diseases and syndromes and the collection of associated biospecimens has ensured a plethora of biobanks created by individuals, albeit without the foresight of prospective and collective use by other local and international researchers. As the need for access to high-quality specimens in statistically relevant numbers has increased, so has the necessity for the development of national human biobanks in SA and across the Continent. The prospects of achieving sustainable centralized biobanks are still an emerging and evolving concept, primarily and recently driven by the launch of the H3Africa consortium, which includes the development of harmonized and standardized biobanking operating procedures. This process is hindered by a myriad of complex societal considerations and ethico-legal challenges. Efforts to consolidate and standardize biological sample collections are further compromised by the lack of full appreciation by national stakeholders of the biological value inherent in these collections, and the availability of high quality human samples with well-annotated data for future scientific research and development. Inadequate or nonexistent legislative structures that specifically regulate the storage, use, dispersal, and disposal of human biological samples are common phenomena and pose further challenges. Furthermore, concerns relating to consent for unspecified future uses, as well as access to information and data protection, are all new paradigms that require further consideration and public engagement. This article reviews important fundamental issues such as governance, ethics, infrastructure, and bioinformatics that are important foundational prerequisites for the establishment and evolution of successful human biobanking in South Africa.
Our prior work has shown that microwave processing can be effective as a method for dehydrating cell-based suspensions in preparation for anhydrous storage, yielding homogenous samples with predictable and reproducible drying times. In the current work an optimized microwave-based drying process was developed that expands upon this previous proof-of-concept. Utilization of a commercial microwave (CEM SAM 255, Matthews, NC) enabled continuous drying at variable low power settings. A new turntable was manufactured from Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMW-PE; Grainger, Lake Forest, IL) to provide for drying of up to 12 samples at a time. The new process enabled rapid and simultaneous drying of multiple samples in containment devices suitable for long-term storage and aseptic rehydration of the sample. To determine sample repeatability and consistency of drying within the microwave cavity, a concentration series of aqueous trehalose solutions were dried for specific intervals and water content assessed using Karl Fischer Titration at the end of each processing period. Samples were dried on Whatman S-14 conjugate release filters (Whatman, Maidestone, UK), a glass fiber membrane used currently in clinical laboratories. The filters were cut to size for use in a 13 mm Swinnex® syringe filter holder (Millipore™, Billerica, MA). Samples of 40 μL volume could be dehydrated to the equilibrium moisture content by continuous processing at 20% with excellent sample-to-sample repeatability. The microwave-assisted procedure enabled high throughput, repeatable drying of multiple samples, in a manner easily adaptable for drying a wide array of biological samples. Depending on the tolerance for sample heating, the drying time can be altered by changing the power level of the microwave unit.
Human tissue biobanks are at the epicenter of clinical research, responsible for providing both clinical samples and annotated data. There is a need for large numbers of samples to provide statistical power to research studies, especially since treatment and diagnosis are becoming ever more personalized. A single biobank cannot provide sufficient numbers of samples to capture the full spectrum of any disease. Currently there is no infrastructure in the United Kingdom (UK) to integrate biobanks. Therefore the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Confederation of Cancer Biobanks (CCB) Working Group 3 looked to establish a data standard to enable biobanks to communicate about the samples they hold and so facilitate the formation of an integrated national network of biobanks. The Working Group examined the existing data standards available to biobanks, such as the MIABIS standard, and compared these to the aims of the working group. The CCB-developed data standard has brought many improvements: (1) Where existing data standards have been developed, these have been incorporated, ensuring compatibility with other initiatives; (2) the standard was written with the expectation that it will be extended for specific disease areas, such as the Breast Cancer Campaign Tissue Bank (BCCTB) and the Strategic Tissue Repository Alliances Through Unified Methods (STRATUM) project; and (3) biobanks will be able to communicate about specific samples, as well as aggregated statistics.
The development of this data standard will allow all biobanks to integrate and share information about the samples they hold, facilitating the possibility of a national portal for researchers to find suitable samples for research. In addition, the data standard will allow other clinical services, such as disease registries, to communicate with biobanks in a standardized format allowing for greater cross-discipline data sharing.
Effective tracking of biospecimens within a biobank requires that each biospecimen has a unique identifier (ID). This ID can be found on the sample container as well as in the biospecimen management system. In the latter, the biospecimen ID is the key to annotation data such as location, quality, and sample processing. Guidelines such as the Best Practices from the International Society of Biological and Environmental Repositories only state that a unique identifier should be issued for each sample. However, to our knowledge, all guidelines lack a specific description of how to actually generate such an ID and how this can be supported by an IT system. Here, we provide a guide for biobankers on how to generate a biospecimen ID for your biobank. We also provide an example of how to apply this guide using a longitudinal multi-center research project (and its biobank). Starting with a description of the biobank's purpose and workflows through to collecting requirements from stakeholders and relevant documents (i.e., guidelines or data protection concepts), and existing IT-systems, we describe in detail how a concept to develop an ID system can be developed from this information. The concept contains two parts: one is the generation of the biospecimen ID according to the requirements of stakeholders, existing documentation such as guidelines or data protection concepts, and existing IT-infrastructures, and the second is the implementation of the biospecimen IDs and related functionalities covering the handling of individual biospecimens within an existing biospecimen management system. From describing the concept, the article moves on to how the new concept supports both existing or planned biobank workflows. Finally, the implementation and validation step is outlined to the reader and practical hints are provided for each step.
Human biospecimens are central to biobanking efforts, yet how members of the public think about biobank procurement strategies is not well understood. This study aimed to explore public perspectives toward the procurement of residual clinical material versus “direct” procurement strategies such as the drawing of blood.
Members of the public residing in and beyond the biobank catchment area of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics were randomly selected to participate in focus groups and a telephone survey.
The majority of survey participants (75%, n=559) found both residual and direct procurement strategies equally workable. Small proportions preferred either residual (15%; n=117) or direct (5%; n=40) procurement. Focus group participants (n=48) could identify benefits to both procurement strategies, but raised concerns about possible donor inconvenience/discomfort and reduced biospecimen accrual in the case of direct procurement. Residual procurement raised concerns about lower-quality samples being procured without full donor awareness.
Biobanks should consider that members of the public in their research programs may be willing to make specimen donations regardless of whether a residual or direct procurement strategy is employed. Limiting patient discomfort and inconvenience may make direct procurement strategies more acceptable to some members of the public. Ensuring donor awareness through effective informed consent may allay public concerns about the indirectness of donating clinical biospecimens.
Human biospecimens represent invaluable resources to advance molecular medicine, epidemiology, and biomarker discovery/validation, among other biomedical research. Biobanks typically cryopreserve biospecimens to safeguard their biochemical composition. However, exposing specimens repeatedly to freeze/thaw cycles can degrade their integrity in unforeseen ways. Those biobanks storing liquid samples, thus, regularly make a fundamental compromise at collection time between freezing samples in many small volumes (e.g., 0.5 mL or smaller) or in fewer, larger volumes (e.g., 1.8 mL). The former eliminates the need to expose samples to repeated freeze/thaw cycling, although increasing up-front labor costs, consumables used, and cold storage space requirements. The latter decreases up-front labor costs, consumables, and cold storage requirements, yet exposes samples repeatedly to damaging freeze/thaw cycles when smaller aliquots are needed for analysis. The Rhode Island BioBank at Brown University (RIBB) thoroughly evaluated the performance of an original technology that minimizes a sample's exposure to freeze/thaw cycling by enabling the automated extraction of frozen aliquots from one single frozen parent sample without thawing it. A technology that eliminates unnecessary sample exposures to freeze/thaw cycles could help protect sample integrity, extend its useful life, and effectively rectify and eliminate the aforementioned need to compromise. This report presents the results of the evaluation, and conclusively demonstrates the technology's ability to extract multiple uniform frozen aliquots from a single cryotube of never-thawed frozen human plasma, which faithfully represent the parent sample when analyzed for typical biochemical analytes, showing a coefficient of variability lower than 5.5%.
Pre-analytical conditions are key factors in maintaining the high quality of biospecimens. They are necessary for accurate reproducibility of experiments in the field of biomarker discovery as well as achieving optimal specificity of laboratory tests for clinical diagnosis. In research at the National Biobank of Korea, we evaluated the impact of pre-analytical conditions on the stability of biobanked blood samples by measuring biochemical analytes commonly used in clinical laboratory tests.
We measured 10 routine laboratory analytes in serum and plasma samples from healthy donors (n=50) with a chemistry autoanalyzer (Hitachi 7600-110). The analyte measurements were made at different time courses based on delay of blood fractionation, freezing delay of fractionated serum and plasma samples, and at different cycles (0, 1, 3, 6, 9) of freeze-thawing. Statistically significant changes from the reference sample mean were determined using the repeated-measures ANOVA and the significant change limit (SCL).
The serum levels of GGT and LDH were changed significantly depending on both the time interval between blood collection and fractionation and the time interval between fractionation and freezing of serum and plasma samples. The glucose level was most sensitive only to the elapsed time between blood collection and centrifugation for blood fractionation. Based on these findings, a simple formula (glucose decrease by 1.387 mg/dL per hour) was derived to estimate the length of time delay after blood collection. In addition, AST, BUN, GGT, and LDH showed sensitive responses to repeated freeze-thaw cycles of serum and plasma samples.
These results suggest that GGT and LDH measurements can be used as quality control markers for certain pre-analytical conditions (eg, delayed processing or repeated freeze-thawing) of blood samples which are either directly used in the laboratory tests or stored for future research in the biobank.
Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) material presents a readily available resource in the study of various biomarkers. There has been interest in whether the storage period has significant effect on the extracted macromolecules. Thus, in this study, we investigated if the storage period had an effect on the quantity/quality of the extracted nucleic acids and proteins. We systematically examined the quality/quantity of genomic DNA, total RNA, and total protein in the FFPE blocks of malignant tumors of lung, thyroid, and salivary gland that had been stored over several years. We show that there is no significant difference between macromolecules extracted from blocks stored over 11–12 years, 5–7 years, or 1–2 years in comparison to the current year blocks.
Research studies aimed at advancing cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment depend on a number of key resources, including a ready supply of high-quality annotated biospecimens from diverse ethnic populations that can be used to test new drugs, assess the validity of prognostic biomarkers, and develop tailor-made therapies. In November 2011, KHCCBIO was established at the King Hussein Cancer Center (KHCC) with the support of Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) funding from the European Union (khccbio.khcc.jo). KHCCBIO was developed for the purpose of achieving an ISO accredited cancer biobank through the collection, processing, and preservation of high-quality, clinically annotated biospecimens from consenting cancer patients, making it the first cancer biobank of its kind in Jordan. The establishment of a state-of-the-art, standardized biospecimen repository of matched normal and lung tumor tissue, in addition to blood components such as serum, plasma, and white blood cells, was achieved through the support and experience of its European partners, Trinity College Dublin, Biostór Ireland, and accelopment AG. To date, KHCCBIO along with its partners, have worked closely in establishing an ISO Quality Management System (QMS) under which the biobank will operate. A Quality Policy Manual, Validation, and Training plan have been developed in addition to the development of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for consenting policies on ethical issues, data privacy, confidentiality, and biobanking bylaws. SOPs have also been drafted according to best international practices and implemented for the donation, procurement, processing, testing, preservation, storage, and distribution of tissues and blood samples from lung cancer patients, which will form the basis for the procurement of other cancer types. KHCCBIO will be the first ISO accredited cancer biobank from a diverse ethnic Middle Eastern and North African population. It will provide a unique and valuable resource of high-quality human biospecimens and anonymized clinicopathological data to the cancer research communities world-wide.
Biobank Ireland Trust (BIT) was established in 2004 to promote and develop an Irish biobank network to benefit patients, researchers, industry, and the economy. The network commenced in 2008 with two hospital biobanks and currently consists of biobanks in the four main cancer hospitals in Ireland. The St. James's Hospital (SJH) Biobank coordinates the network. Procedures, based on ISBER and NCI guidelines, are standardized across the network. Policies and documents—Patient Consent Policy, Patient Information Sheet, Biobank Consent Form, Sample and Data Access Policy (SAP), and Sample Application Form have been agreed upon (after robust discussion) for use in each hospital. An optimum sequence for document preparation and submission for review is outlined. Once consensus is reached among the participating biobanks, the SJH biobank liaises with the Research and Ethics Committees, the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, The National Cancer Registry (NCR), patient advocate groups, researchers, and other stakeholders. The NCR provides de-identified data from its database for researchers via unique biobank codes. ELSI issues discussed include the introduction of prospective consent across the network and the return of significant research results to patients. Only 4 of 363 patients opted to be re-contacted and re-consented on each occasion that their samples are included in a new project. It was decided, after multidisciplinary discussion, that results will not be returned to patients. The SAP is modeled on those of several international networks. Biobank Ireland is affiliated with international biobanking groups—Marble Arch International Working Group, ISBER, and ESBB. The Irish government continues to deliberate on how to fund and implement biobanking nationally. Meanwhile BIT uses every opportunity to promote awareness of the benefits of biobanking in events and in the media.
Hepatocytes are critical for numerous cell therapies and in vitro investigations. A limiting factor for their use in these applications is the ability to process and preserve them without loss of viability or functionality. Normal rat hepatocytes (NHEPs) and human hepatoma (C3A) cells were stored at either 4°C or 37°C to examine post-processing stress responses. Resveratrol and salubrinal were used during storage to determine how targeted molecular stress pathway modulation would affect cell survival. This study revealed that storage outcome is dependent upon numerous factors including: cell type, storage media, storage length, storage temperature, and chemical modulator. These data implicate a molecular-based stress response that is not universal but is specific to the set of conditions under which cells are stored. Further, these findings allude to the potential for targeted protection or destruction of particular cell types for numerous applications, from diagnostic cell selection to cell-based therapy. Ultimately, this study demonstrates the need for further in-depth molecular investigations into the cellular stress response to bioprocessing and preservation.
Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus is one of the leading causes of death world-wide. Donor-derived pancreas and Islet of Langerhans transplantation are potential cures; however, postmortem ischemia impacts islet quality. The murine βt3 cell line was employed as a model to study cell viability and proliferation after hypothermic storage by comparing Belzer's Machine Perfusion Solution with Unisol™ Solution. The objective was to determine which of these solutions provided the best base line support for βt3 cells and to screen potential cytoprotective additives to the solutions. Initial βt3 cell viability was similar in the two storage solutions; however, better proliferation was observed after storage in Unisol Solution. The caspase inhibitor, Q-VD-OPH, and α-tocopherol improved viability in both storage solutions, suggesting that apoptotic pathways may be responsible for cell death during hypothermic storage of βt3 cells. Analysis of apoptosis markers, caspase activity, and DNA laddering showed a reduction in apoptosis when these additives were included. The effects of Q-VD-OPH and α-tocopherol were also synergistic when employed together during either hypothermic exposure, post-hypothermic physiologic incubation, or combinations of hypothermic exposure and physiologic incubation. These results suggest that both supplements should be included in pancreas hypothermic storage solutions and in islet culture media during post-isolation culture prior to transplantation.
Background: Today, no consensus exists regarding how human tissues are best preserved for long-term storage. Very low temperature storage in liquid nitrogen is often advocated as the superlative method for extended periods, but storage in −80 degrees Celsius (−80°C) freezers, while sometimes debated, is a possible alternative. RNA is the most easily degradable component of a biological sample in a molecular biology context and the quality can reliably be measured.
Aim: To investigate to what extent long-term storage of tissues in −80°C affects the RNA quality and overall histomorphology. The tissue storage period represents nearly three decades (1986–2013).
Methods: RNA extraction from 153 tissue samples with different storage periods was performed with the mirVana kit (Invitrogen). RNA integrity was assessed using an Agilent bioanalyzer to obtain RNA integrity numbers (RIN). Further, tissue representative testing using light microscopy was performed by two pathologists to assess tissue composition and morphology.
Results: RIN values were measured in all samples, showing a variability that did not correlate with the storage time of the tissues. Microscopically, all samples displayed acceptable tissue morphology regardless of storage time.
Conclusion: Long-term storage in −80°C does not adversely affect the quality of the RNA extracted from the stored tissues, and the tissue morphology is maintained to a good standard.
As part of a larger organizational study, we sought to survey biobanks in the United States. However, we encountered two problems with this population. First, no common definition of biobanks exists. Second, no census is available of these facilities from which to sample in order to implement a survey. In light of these problems, we employed a multifaceted approach using electronic searches of PubMed, RePORTER, and Google. In addition, we systematically searched for biobanks housed within universities that have NIH-designated Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA). We expanded this part of the search by looking for biobanks among all members of the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC). Finally, we added banks to our database found previously by other researchers and banks found via correspondence with our colleagues. Our search strategy produced a database of 624 biobanks for which we were able to confirm contact information in order to conduct our online survey. Another 140 biobanks were identified but did not respond to our requests to confirm their existence or contact information. In order to maximize both the uniqueness of banks found and the greatest return on effort for each search, we suggest targeting resources that are already organized. In our work, these included the CTSA, AAMC, and part of the Google searches. We contend that our search provides a model for analysis of new fields of research and/or rapidly evolving industries. Furthermore, our approach demonstrates that with the appropriate tools it is possible to develop a systematic and comprehensive database to investigate undefined populations.
Biorepositories offer tremendous scientific value to a wide variety of customer groups (academic, commercial, industrial) in their ability to deliver a centralized, standardized service model, encompassing both biospecimen storage and related laboratory services. Generally, the scientific expertise and economies of scale that are offered in centralized, properly resourced research biobanks has yielded value that has been well-recognized by universities, pharmaceutical companies, and other sponsoring institutions. However, like many facets of the economy, biobanks have been under increasing cost pressure in recent years. This has been a particular problem in the academic arena, where direct support from grant sources (both governmental and philanthropic) typically now is more difficult to secure, or provides reduced financial support, relative to previous years. One way to address this challenge is to establish or enhance a well-defined fee-for-service model which is properly calibrated to cover operational costs while still offering competitive value to users. In this model, customers are never charged for the biospecimens themselves, but rather for the laboratory services associated with them. Good communication practices, proper assessment of value, implementation of best practices, and a sound business plan are all needed for this initiative to succeed. Here we summarize our experiences at Washington University School of Medicine in the expectation they will be useful to others.
Well-characterized, high-quality fresh-frozen prostate tissue is required for prostate cancer research. As part of the PROCURE Prostate Cancer Biobank launched in 2007, four University Hospitals in Quebec joined to bank fresh frozen prostate tissues from radical prostatectomies (RP). As the biobank progressed towards allocation, the nature and quality of the tissues were determined. RP tissues were collected by standardized alternate mirror-image or biopsy-based targeted methods, and frozen for banking. Clinical/pathological parameters were captured. For quality control, two presumed benign and two presumed cancerous frozen, biobanked tissue blocks per case (10/site) were randomly selected during the five years of collection. In a consensus meeting, 4 pathologists blindly evaluated slides (n=160) and graded quality, Gleason score (GS), and size of cancer foci. The quality of tissue RNA (37/40 cases) was assessed using the RNA Integrity Number. The biobank included 1819 patients of mean age: 62.1 years; serum PSA: 8ng/ml; prostate weight: 47.8 g; GS: 7; and pathological stage: T2 in 64.5%, T3A in 25.5% and T3B in 10% of cases. Of the 157 evaluable slides, 79 and 78 had benign and cancer tissue, respectively. GS for the 37 cancer-positive cases were: 6 in 9, 7 in 18 and >7 in 10 and, in most instances, in concordance with final GS. In 40% of slides containing cancer, foci occupied ≥50% of block surface and 42% had a diameter ≥1 cm. Tissue was well preserved and consistently yielded RNA of very good quality with RNA Integrity Number (RIN) >7 for 97% of cases (mean=8.7±0.7) during the five-year collection period. This study confirms the high quality of randomly selected benign and cancerous fresh-frozen prostate tissues of the PROCURE Quebec Prostate Cancer Biobank. These results strengthen the uniqueness of this large prospective resource for prostate cancer research.
Purpose: Biospecimen-based research offers tremendous promise as a way to increase understanding of the molecular epidemiology of cancers. Population-based cancer registries can augment this research by providing more clinical detail and long-term follow-up information than is typically available from biospecimen annotations. In order to demonstrate the feasibility of this concept, we performed a pilot linkage between the California Cancer Registry (CCR) and the University of California, Davis Cancer Center Biorepository (UCD CCB) databases to determine if we could identify patients with records in both databases. Methods: We performed a probabilistic data linkage between 2180 UCD CCB biospecimen records collected during the years 2005–2009 and all CCR records for cancers diagnosed from 1988–2009 based on standard data linkage procedures. Results: The 1040 UCD records with a unique medical record number, tissue site, and pathology date were linked to 3.3 million CCR records. Of these, 844 (81.2%) were identified in both databases. Overall, record matches were highest (100%) for cancers of the cervix and testis/other male genital system organs. For the most common cancers, matches were highest for cancers of the lung and respiratory system (93%), breast (91.7%), and colon and rectum (89.5%), and lower for prostate (72.9%). Conclusions: This pilot linkage demonstrated that information on existing biospecimens from a cancer center biorepository can be linked successfully to cancer registry data. Linkages between existing biorepositories and cancer registries can foster productive collaborations and provide a foundation for virtual biorepository networks to support population-based biospecimen research.
In Italy, a country that is experiencing the decentralization of health services from central to regional level of government, the Minister of Health is proposing stewardship as a model of governance for the public health system. Stewardship favors efficiency in the policy decision-making process, based on reciprocal trust, and tends to be more ethical. The embryonic proposal to test stewardship in the field of population-based research was advanced during the launching conference Challenges and Opportunities of the Italian Hub of Population Biobanks (HIBP) held in 2012 in Rome. Resources collected by population biobanks (i.e., blood and its derivatives, and/or DNA isolated from any type of biological samples and relative associated data) have, in fact, a recognized scientific value for the investigation of links between genetics, health and life style, and epidemiological outcomes through population biobank-based studies, and are essential to planning effective and qualified interventions for public health. The current economic crisis requires a strong push to rationalize investment in health policies. In particular, population biobank-based studies require financial commitment, often of long duration, for the realization of their goals. Thus, innovative solutions to allow fast integration of scientific knowledge into political health strategy are required. During the conference in Rome, it was proposed to test the stewardship model by its application to the inter-relationship between population biobank-based studies and disease prevention. Stewardship minimizes barriers to innovation and uses information more effectively to better develop new strategies for prevention and/or treatment. In the months following the conference, the proposal was defined more clearly, and the HIBP network became a potential tool for testing and implementing this model in the Italian Public Health prevention system.
The ethical-legal framework of research biobanking activities is still scarcely defined in Italy, and this constitutes a major obstacle to exploit the potential benefits of existing bioresource patrimony at the national and international levels.
Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure (BBMRI), which aims to become a major interface between biological samples and data and top-level biological and medical research, is undertaking the crucial transformation to the ERIC (European Research Infrastructure Consortium) legal entity. In this scenario, there is a need to address the national legal and ethical concerns that are strictly correlated with the use of human biosources in research across European countries participating (and not) in BBMRI. In this perspective, this article aims to review the legal framework applying to research biobanking in Italy, including both “soft” nonbinding instruments and binding regulations. Since ethical and societal aspects impact biobanking research activities, the article discusses both the critical ethical and legal open issues that need to be implemented at the national level.