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1.  Managing Incidental Findings and Research Results in Genomic Research Involving Biobanks & Archived Datasets 
Biobanks and archived datasets collecting samples and data have become crucial engines of genetic and genomic research. Unresolved, however, is what responsibilities biobanks should shoulder to manage incidental findings (IFs) and individual research results (IRRs) of potential health, reproductive, or personal importance to individual contributors (using “biobank” here to refer to both collections of samples and collections of data). This paper reports recommendations from a 2-year, NIH-funded project. The authors analyze responsibilities to manage return of IFs and IRRs in a biobank research system (primary research or collection sites, the biobank itself, and secondary research sites). They suggest that biobanks shoulder significant responsibility for seeing that the biobank research system addresses the return question explicitly. When re-identification of individual contributors is possible, the biobank should work to enable the biobank research system to discharge four core responsibilities: to (1) clarify the criteria for evaluating findings and roster of returnable findings, (2) analyze a particular finding in relation to this, (3) re-identify the individual contributor, and (4) recontact the contributor to offer the finding. The authors suggest that findings that are analytically valid, reveal an established and substantial risk of a serious health condition, and that are clinically actionable should generally be offered to consenting contributors. The paper specifies 10 concrete recommendations, addressing new biobanks and biobanks already in existence.
PMCID: PMC3597341  PMID: 22436882
incidental findings; return of results; biobanks; research ethics; bioethics; genetics; genomics
2.  Biobanking: The Melding of Research with Clinical Care 
Current genetic medicine reports  2013;1(2):122-128.
The number of biobanks around the world has increased dramatically, owing in part, to the need for researchers to have access to large numbers of samples for genomic research. Policies for enrolling participants, returning research results and obtaining samples and data can have a far reaching impact on the type of research that can be performed with each biobank. Research using biobank samples includes studies of the impact of environmental and other risk exposures on health, understanding genetic risks for common disease, identification of biomarkers in disease progression and prognosis, and implementation of personalized medicine projects. This research has been instrumental in the progress of genetic and genomic research and translational medicine. This article will highlight some of the controversies and recent research associated with biobanking over the past year.
PMCID: PMC3804314  PMID: 24159428
Biobank; Biobanking; Translational Medicine; Genetic; Genetic Research; Research Results; Genomics
3.  Developing a policy for paediatric biobanks: principles for good practice 
The participation of minors in biobank research can offer great benefits for science and health care. However, as minors are a vulnerable population they are also in need of adequate protective measures when they are enrolled in research. Research using biobanked biological samples from children poses additional ethical issues to those raised by research using adult biobanks. For example, small children have only limited capacity, if any, to understand the meaning and implications of the research and to give a documented agreement to it. Older minors are gradually acquiring this capacity. We describe principles for good practice related to the inclusion of minors in biobank research, focusing on issues related to benefits and subsidiarity, consent, proportionality and return of results. Some of these issues are currently heavily debated, and we conclude by providing principles for good practice for policy makers of biobanks, researchers and anyone involved in dealing with stored tissue samples from children. Actual implementation of the principles will vary according to different jurisdictions.
PMCID: PMC3533257  PMID: 22713814
4.  A biobank management model applicable to biomedical research 
BMC Medical Ethics  2006;7:4.
The work of Research Ethics Boards (REBs), especially when involving genetics research and biobanks, has become more challenging with the growth of biotechnology and biomedical research. Some REBs have even rejected research projects where the use of a biobank with coded samples was an integral part of the study, the greatest fear being the lack of participant protection and uncontrolled use of biological samples or related genetic data. The risks of discrimination and stigmatization are a recurrent issue. In light of the increasing interest in biomedical research and the resulting benefits to the health of participants, it is imperative that practical solutions be found to the problems associated with the management of biobanks: namely, protecting the integrity of the research participants, as well as guaranteeing the security and confidentiality of the participant's information.
We aimed to devise a practical and efficient model for the management of biobanks in biomedical research where a medical archivist plays the pivotal role as a data-protection officer. The model had to reduce the burden placed on REBs responsible for the evaluation of genetics projects and, at the same time, maximize the protection of research participants.
The proposed model includes the following: 1) a means of protecting the information in biobanks, 2) offers ways to provide follow-up information requested about the participants, 3) protects the participant's confidentiality and 4) adequately deals with the ethical issues at stake in biobanking.
Until a governmental governance body is established in Quebec to guarantee the protection of research participants and establish harmonized guidelines for the management of biobanks in medical research, it is definitely up to REBs to find solutions that the present lack of guidelines poses. The model presented in this article offers a practical solution on a day-to-day basis for REBs, as well as researchers by promoting an archivist to a pivotal role in the process. It assures protection of all participants who altruistically donate their samples to generate and improve knowledge for better diagnosis and medical treatment.
PMCID: PMC1475589  PMID: 16600040
5.  Development and Progress of Ireland's Biobank Network: Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI), Standardized Documentation, Sample and Data Release, and International Perspective 
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.
PMCID: PMC4076973  PMID: 24845249
6.  Practice variation across consent templates for biobank research. a survey of German biobanks 
Frontiers in Genetics  2013;4:240.
Introduction: Informed, voluntary, and valid consent from biomaterial donors is a precondition for biobank research. Valid consent protects donors’ rights and helps maintain public trust in biobank research. Harmonization of consent procedures in biobank research is needed, because of the widely shared vision on national and international networking of biobanks including data and sample sharing. So far, no study has assessed and compared the content of current consent forms especially for biobank research. The objective of this study was to perform a content analysis of consent forms in German biobanks.
Methods: Based on ten guidelines for biomedical research, we developed an assessment matrix with 41 content issues that are potentially relevant for consent forms in biobank research. This assessment matrix was applied in a thematic text analysis to 30 consent documents of German biobanks identified via the German Biobank Registry in July 2012.
Results: Coverage of the 41 items in the assessed consent forms varied widely. For example, the items “Right to withdraw consent (without disadvantage),” “Policy for genetic information/consent to genetic analyzes” and “International cooperation/transborder use” were addressed in 97, 40, and 23% of all 30 consent forms respectively. The number of items covered by a single consent form ranged from 9 to 36 (22–88% out of 41 items).
Discussion: Our findings serve as a starting point to reflect upon the spectrum of consent issues that must be addressed in biobank research. The findings show that the majority of consent forms for German biobanks, if not all, should be improved and harmonized to better support an informed and balanced choice of potential donors and to facilitate networking of biobanks. Best practice models for consent forms in biobank research should be developed and biobank operators need to be more aware of relevant consent issues.
PMCID: PMC3827716  PMID: 24294219
biobank; tissue bank; broad consent; informed consent; survey; thematic text analysis; research ethics
7.  Biobanks for Genomics and Genomics for Biobanks 
Biobanks include biological samples and attached databases. Human biobanks occur in research, technological development and medical activities. Population genomics is highly dependent on the availability of large biobanks. Ethical issues must be considered: protecting the rights of those people whose samples or data are in biobanks (information, autonomy, confidentiality, protection of private life), assuring the non-commercial use of human body elements and the optimal use of samples and data. They balance other issues, such as protecting the rights of researchers and companies, allowing long-term use of biobanks while detailed information on future uses is not available. At the level of populations, the traditional form of informed consent is challenged. Other dimensions relate to the rights of a group as such, in addition to individual rights. Conditions of return of results and/or benefit to a population need to be defined. With ‘large-scale biobanking’ a marked trend in genomics, new societal dimensions appear, regarding communication, debate, regulation, societal control and valorization of such large biobanks. Exploring how genomics can help health sector biobanks to become more rationally constituted and exploited is an interesting perspective. For example, evaluating how genomic approaches can help in optimizing haematopoietic stem cell donor registries using new markers and high-throughput techniques to increase immunogenetic variability in such registries is a challenge currently being addressed. Ethical issues in such contexts are important, as not only individual decisions or projects are concerned, but also national policies in the international arena and organization of democratic debate about science, medicine and society.
PMCID: PMC2447308  PMID: 18629026
8.  p-BioSPRE—an information and communication technology framework for transnational biomaterial sharing and access 
ecancermedicalscience  2014;8:401.
Biobanks represent key resources for clinico-genomic research and are needed to pave the way to personalised medicine. To achieve this goal, it is crucial that scientists can securely access and share high-quality biomaterial and related data. Therefore, there is a growing interest in integrating biobanks into larger biomedical information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructures. The European project p-medicine is currently building an innovative ICT infrastructure to meet this need. This platform provides tools and services for conducting research and clinical trials in personalised medicine. In this paper, we describe one of its main components, the biobank access framework p-BioSPRE (p-medicine Biospecimen Search and Project Request Engine). This generic framework enables and simplifies access to existing biobanks, but also to offer own biomaterial collections to research communities, and to manage biobank specimens and related clinical data over the ObTiMA Trial Biomaterial Manager. p-BioSPRE takes into consideration all relevant ethical and legal standards, e.g., safeguarding donors’ personal rights and enabling biobanks to keep control over the donated material and related data. The framework thus enables secure sharing of biomaterial within open and closed research communities, while flexibly integrating related clinical and omics data. Although the development of the framework is mainly driven by user scenarios from the cancer domain, in this case, acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and Wilms tumour, it can be extended to further disease entities.
PMCID: PMC3922646  PMID: 24567758
biobank access; specimen management; p-BioSPRE; ObTiMA; Trial Biomaterial Manager; IDB; p-biobank wrapper
9.  A Data Standard for Sourcing Fit-for-Purpose Biological Samples in an Integrated Virtual Network of Biobanks 
Biopreservation and Biobanking  2014;12(3):184-191.
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.
PMCID: PMC4066222  PMID: 24785371
10.  Reasons for participating and genetic information needs among racially and ethnically diverse biobank participants: a focus group study 
Journal of community genetics  2011;2(3):153-163.
In order for DNA biobanks to be a valuable reservoir of genetic information, large numbers of participants from all racial and ethnic backgrounds need to be recruited. This study explored reasons for participating in a new biobank among primarily Hispanic and African American individuals, as well as their general attitudes towards genetic research, and their views on obtaining genetic tests. Focus groups were conducted with Mount Sinai Biobank participants recruited from predominantly lower income, minority communities. The topic guide included questions on The Mount Sinai Biobank, genetic research, and genetic testing. All focus groups were audio recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using thematic analysis. The six focus groups comprised 43 participants: 39 females and four males, aged 27–76 years, with a median household income category of $20,000–$39,999. Twenty-one participants were Hispanic, 20 African American, one Asian, and one White. Participants’ reasons for participating in the biobank included altruism, personal and family benefit, and general curiosity. Although there was evidence of conflation between genetic research and genetic testing, most participants held positive views of genetic research and expressed interest in receiving personal genetic test results. Participants wanted to learn more about genetic research and suggested various venues such as health fairs for disseminating information. Participation in biobanks by racial and ethnic minorities is apparently driven by altruism, and desire for personal or collective health benefits. Participants had generally positive attitudes, limited understanding of genetics and genetic research, and made useful suggestions regarding information dissemination mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3186034  PMID: 22109822
African American; DNA biobank; Focus groups; Hispanics; Motives
11.  Community engagement in biobanking: Experiences from the eMERGE Network 
Advances in genomic technologies and the promise of “personalised medicine” have spurred the interest of researchers, healthcare systems, and the general public. However, the success of population-based genetic studies depends on the willingness of large numbers of individuals and diverse communities to grant researchers access to detailed medical and genetic information. Certain features of this kind of research – such as the establishment of biobanks and prospective data collection from participants’ electronic medical records – make the potential risks and benefits to participants difficult to specify in advance. Therefore, community input into biobank processes is essential. In this report, we describe community engagement efforts undertaken by six United States biobanks, various outcomes from these engagements, and lessons learned. Our aim is to provide useful insights and potential strategies for the various disciplines that work with communities involved in biobank-based genomic research.
PMCID: PMC3434453  PMID: 22962560
12.  Biobanking in pediatrics: the human nonsubjects approach 
Personalized medicine  2011;8(1):79.
Pediatric biobanks are an indispensible resource for the research that will be needed to bring advances in personalized medicine into pediatric medical care. Investigators developing pediatric biobanks have struggled with the ethical and legal challenges that arise in pediatric research. This article explores how one biobank model, the ‘human nonsubjects models’, is able to respond to such common challenges as the role of the parent and the child in agreeing to research participation, reconsent at the age of majority, data sharing and return of research results. Although this approach does not involve formal informed consent, it is well-suited to pediatric biobanking owing to its potential to reduce risk to children through a combination of advanced deidentification techniques and extensive oversight.
PMCID: PMC3117295  PMID: 21691419
biobanking; data sharing; genomic research; pediatric research; research regulation; responsible conduct of research; return of research results
13.  Biobanking for research: a survey of patient population attitudes and understanding 
Journal of Community Genetics  2013;4(4):445-450.
Population-based biobanks are a critical resource for genetic research. It is important to know what potential participants understand about the risks and benefits of providing samples in order to ensure adequate informed consent. Kaiser Permanente Colorado (KPCO) is currently planning a biobank where adult members would be asked to contribute an additional tube of blood during a routine blood draw. Adult KPCO members in clinic waiting rooms were asked to read an informational brochure and informed consent form. Respondents then completed a survey to evaluate their understanding of the materials, willingness to provide a blood sample to a biobank, and facilitators and barriers to participation. Two hundred three members participated in the survey, of whom 69 % indicated willingness to contribute to a biobank. Nearly all understood that they would not be paid for any products resulting from the use of their blood and would not receive results from their samples (91 and 84 %, respectively). Seventy-four percent would donate a sample because, “it is important to contribute to research,” and over half the participants (56 %) said they had no concerns about contributing to a biobank. Of those with concerns, 35 % said information security was a reason. In multivariate models, older age and trust in KPCO were significant predictors of willingness to participate (p = 0.03 and p < 0.0001, respectively). Data from this survey indicate an overall willingness to participate in a biobank, provide possible barriers to participation, and identify ways to improve informational materials to ensure adequate informed consent.
PMCID: PMC3773315  PMID: 23605056
Biobanks; Genetics; Public attitudes; Participation; Understanding; Consent
14.  Characteristics of Australian cohort study participants who do and do not take up an additional invitation to join a long-term biobank: The 45 and Up Study 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:655.
Large-scale population biobanks are critical for future research integrating epidemiology, genetic, biomarker and other factors. Little is known about the factors influencing participation in biobanks. This study compares the characteristics of biobank participants with those of non-participants, among members of an existing cohort study.
Individuals aged 45 and over participating in The 45 and Up Study and living ≤20km from central Wagga Wagga, New South Wales (NSW), Australia (rural/regional area) or ≤10km from central Parramatta, NSW (urban area) (n=2340) were invited to join a biobank, giving a blood sample and having additional measures taken, including height, weight, waist circumference, heart rate and blood pressure.
The overall uptake of the invitation to participate was 33% (762/2340). The response rate was 41% (410/1002) among participants resident in the regional area, and 26% (352/1338) among those resident in the urban area. Characteristics associated with significantly decreased participation were being aged 80 and over versus being aged 45–64 (participation rate ratio: RR = 0.45, 95%CI 0.34-0.60), not being born in Australia versus being born in Australia (0.69, 0.59-0.81), having versus not having a major disability (0.54, 0.38-0.76), having full-time caregiving responsibilities versus not being a full-time carer (0.62, 0.42-0.93) and being a current smoker versus never having smoked (0.66, 0.50-0.89). Factors associated with increased participation were being in part-time work versus not being in paid work (1.24, 1.07-1.44) and having an annual household income of ≥$50,000 versus <$20,000 (1.50, 1.26-1.80).
A range of socio-economic, health and lifestyle factors are associated with biobank participation among members of an existing cohort study, with factors relating to health-seeking behaviours and access difficulties or time limitations being particularly important. If more widespread participation in biobanking is desired, particularly to ensure sufficient numbers among those most affected by these issues, specific efforts may be required to increase participation in certain groups such as migrants, the elderly, and those in poor health. Whilst caution should be exercised when generalising estimates of absolute prevalence from biobanks, estimates for many internal comparisons are likely to remain valid.
PMCID: PMC3536556  PMID: 23181586
15.  Population biobanking in selected European countries and proposed model for a Polish national DNA bank 
Journal of Applied Genetics  2012;53(2):159-165.
Population biobanks offer new opportunities for public health, are rudimentary for the development of its new branch called Public Health Genomics, and are important for translational research. This article presents organizational models of population biobanks in selected European countries. Review of bibliography and websites of European population biobanks (UK, Spain, Estonia). Some countries establish national genomic biobanks (DNA banks) in order to conduct research on new methods of prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the genetic and lifestyle diseases and on pharmacogenetic research. Individual countries have developed different organizational models of these institutions and specific legal regulations regarding various ways of obtaining genetic data from the inhabitants, donors’ rights, organizational and legal aspects. Population biobanks in European countries were funded in different manners. In light of these solutions, the authors discuss prospects of establishing a Polish national genomic biobank for research purpose. They propose the creation of such an institution based on the existing network of blood-donation centres and clinical biobanks in Poland.
PMCID: PMC3334487  PMID: 22281780
DNA banking; Genetic epidemiology; Population biobanks; Public health genomics; Life Sciences; Human Genetics; Plant Genetics & Genomics; Animal Genetics and Genomics; Microbial Genetics and Genomics; Life Sciences, general
16.  Offering Aggregate Results to Participants in Genomic Research: Opportunities and Challenges 
Although issues involved in offering individual results to participants in genomic research have received considerable attention, communication of aggregate results has been the subject of relatively little ethical analysis. Offering participants aggregate results is typically assumed to be a good thing, and studies have found that a significant majority of biobank research participants, when asked about their interest in aggregate results, say that access to such information would be important. Even so, return of aggregate results remains a relatively uncommon practice.
In this paper, we explore the opportunities involved in communicating aggregate results to participants in genomic research, including affirming the value of research participation, informing participants about research being conducted based on broad consent for future unspecified research, educating participants and the public about the research process, and building trust in the research enterprise. We also explore some of the challenges, including the complex intersection between individual and aggregate results, as well as practical hurdles. We conclude by offering our preliminary recommendations concerning the provision of aggregate results and an agenda for much-needed future research.
PMCID: PMC3612423  PMID: 22261761
Research results; aggregate results; research participants; trust; education; informed consent
17.  Changing perspectives in biobank research: from individual rights to concerns about public health regarding the return of results 
European Journal of Human Genetics  2009;17(12):1544-1549.
During the past decade, various guidelines that imply a duty for researchers to disclose information obtained through research to participants have emerged. The character and extent of this obligation have been debated extensively, with much attention devoted to the decisiveness of the validity and utility of the results in question. The aim of this paper is to argue that individual results from research on materials stored in large-scale biobanks, consisting of samples taken within the healthcare system or of altruistically donated materials, should not be returned. We will defend the thesis that medical research on these biobanks should be viewed as a collective project to improve public health, and that available resources should be utilized to pursue this goal. We argue that there is a need for a change of perspectives. Medical research should not primarily be viewed as a danger that individuals must be protected from, but rather be recognized as constituting a necessary defense against current and future diseases. Research that bears the prospect of advancing medicine and that can be carried out at no risk to individuals should be endorsed and facilitated. This calls for a shift of focus from autonomy and individual rights toward collective responsibility and solidarity.
PMCID: PMC2987027  PMID: 19471310
biobanks; returning results; solidarity; public health; altruism
18.  Quantifying the use of bioresources for promoting their sharing in scientific research 
GigaScience  2013;2:7.
An increasing portion of biomedical research relies on the use of biobanks and databases. Sharing of such resources is essential for optimizing knowledge production. A major obstacle for sharing bioresources is the lack of recognition for the efforts involved in establishing, maintaining and sharing them, due to, in particular, the absence of adequate tools. Increasing demands on biobanks and databases to improve access should be complemented with efforts of end-users to recognize and acknowledge these resources. An appropriate set of tools must be developed and implemented to measure this impact.
To address this issue we propose to measure the use in research of such bioresources as a value of their impact, leading to create an indicator: Bioresource Research Impact Factor (BRIF). Key elements to be assessed are: defining obstacles to sharing samples and data, choosing adequate identifier for bioresources, identifying and weighing parameters to be considered in the metrics, analyzing the role of journal guidelines and policies for resource citing and referencing, assessing policies for resource access and sharing and their influence on bioresource use. This work allows us to propose a framework and foundations for the operational development of BRIF that still requires input from stakeholders within the biomedical community.
PMCID: PMC3655103  PMID: 23634721
Data sharing; Bioresource; Biobank; Identifier; Metrics; Traceability; Impact factor; Biology; Science policy; Open data
19.  Mapping the inputs, analyses, and outputs of biobank research systems to identify sources of incidental findings and individual research results for potential return to participants 
Progress in the debate over returning incidental findings (IFs) and individual research results (IRRs) to research participants who provide specimens and data to biobanks in genetic and genomic research requires a new tool to allow comparison across heterogeneous biobank research systems and in-depth analysis of the sources and types of findings generated for potential return. This paper presents a new visual mapping tool to allow systematic and standardized depiction of (1) the specimens initially collected, (2) the materials and datasets then created (3) the analyses then performed, and finally (4) the genetic and genomic results generated, including potential IFs and IRRs. For any individual biobank research system, this sequence of four maps can be created to anticipate the sources and types of IFs and IRRs to be generated, to plan how to handle them, and then to manage them responsibly over time. The authors show how this 4-map tool was created, then apply this tool to 4 national biobank systems, demonstrating that this tool can provide a common platform to visualize biobank content, anticipate how IFs and IRRs will arise in a biobank research context, and inform policy development.
PMCID: PMC3754832  PMID: 22382801
incidental findings; return of results; genetics; genomics; biobank; biorepository; human subjects research; bioethics; research ethics
20.  Potential Bias in the Bank: What Distinguishes Refusers, Non-responders and Participants in a Clinic-based Biobank? 
Public health genomics  2013;16(3):10.1159/000349924.
Biobanks are an important resource for genetic and epidemiologic research, but bias may be introduced if those who accept the recruitment invitation differ systematically from those who do not in attributes important to health-related investigations. To understand potential bias in a clinic-based biobank of biological samples, including genetic data linked to Electronic Medical Record information, we compared patient characteristics and self-reported information among participants, non-responders, and refusers. We also compared reasons for non-participation between refusers and non-responders to elucidate potential pathways to reduce non-participation and any uncovered bias.
We mailed recruitment packets to 1600 adult patients with upcoming appointments at Mayo Clinic (Rochester, MN) and recorded their participation status. Administrative data were used to compare characteristics across groups. We used phone interviews with 26 non-responders and 26 refusers to collect self-reported information, including reasons for non-participation. Participants were asked to complete a mailed questionnaire.
We achieved 26.2% participation (n=419) with 12.1% refusing (n=193) and 61.8% non-response (n=988). In multivariate analyses, sex, age, region of residence, and race/ethnicity were significantly associated with participation. The groups differed in information-seeking behaviors and research experience. Refusers more often cited privacy concerns while non-responders more often identified time constraints as the reason for non-participation.
For genomic medicine to advance, large, representative biobanks are required. Significant associations between patient characteristics and nonresponse, as well as systematic differences between refusers and nonresponders, could introduce bias. Oversampling or recruitment changes, including heightened attention to privacy protection and participation burden, may be necessary to increase participation among less-represented groups.
PMCID: PMC3821039  PMID: 23595106
biobank; non-response; research participation; informed consent
21.  Telethon Network of Genetic Biobanks: a key service for diagnosis and research on rare diseases 
Several examples have always illustrated how access to large numbers of biospecimens and associated data plays a pivotal role in the identification of disease genes and the development of pharmaceuticals. Hence, allowing researchers to access to significant numbers of quality samples and data, genetic biobanks are a powerful tool in basic, translational and clinical research into rare diseases. Recently demand for well-annotated and properly-preserved specimens is growing at a high rate, and is expected to grow for years to come. The best effective solution to this issue is to enhance the potentialities of well-managed biobanks by building a network.
Here we report a 5-year experience of the Telethon Network of Genetic Biobanks (TNGB), a non-profit association of Italian repositories created in 2008 to form a virtually unique catalogue of biospecimens and associated data, which presently lists more than 750 rare genetic defects. The process of TNGB harmonisation has been mainly achieved through the adoption of a unique, centrally coordinated, IT infrastructure, which has enabled (i) standardisation of all the TNGB procedures and activities; (ii) creation of an updated TNGB online catalogue, based on minimal data set and controlled terminologies; (iii) sample access policy managed via a shared request control panel at web portal. TNGB has been engaged in disseminating information on its services into both scientific/biomedical - national and international - contexts, as well as associations of patients and families. Indeed, during the last 5-years national and international scientists extensively used the TNGB with different purposes resulting in more than 250 scientific publications. In addition, since its inception the TNGB is an associated member of the Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure and recently joined the EuroBioBank network. Moreover, the involvement of patients and families, leading to the formalization of various agreements between TNGB and Patients’ Associations, has demonstrated how promoting Biobank services can be instrumental in gaining a critical mass of samples essential for research, as well as, raising awareness, trust and interest of the general public in Biobanks. This article focuses on some fundamental aspects of networking and demonstrates how the translational research benefits from a sustained infrastructure.
PMCID: PMC3766640  PMID: 24004821
Biobanking; Networking; Biological resources centre; IT infrastructure; Biological material; Biospecimens; Cryopreservation; Rare diseases; Patients’ associations
22.  Community leaders’ perspectives on engaging African Americans in biobanks and other human genetics initiatives 
Journal of Community Genetics  2013;4(4):483-494.
There is limited information about what African Americans think about biobanks and the ethical questions surrounding them. Likewise, there is a gap in capacity to successfully enroll African Americans as biobank donors. The purposes of this community-based participatory study were to: (a) explore African Americans’ perspectives on genetics/genomic research, (b) understand facilitators and barriers to participation in such studies, and (c) enlist their ideas about how to attract and sustain engagement of African Americans in genetics initiatives. As the first phase in a mixed methods study, we conducted four focus groups with 21 African American community leaders in one US Midwest city. The sample consisted of executive directors of community organizations and prominent community activists. Data were analyzed thematically. Skepticism about biomedical research and lack of trust characterized discussions about biomedical research and biobanks. The Tuskegee Untreated Syphilis Study and the Henrietta Lacks case influenced their desire to protect their community from harm and exploitation. Connections between genetics and family history made genetics/genomics research personal, pitting intrusion into private affairs against solutions. Participants also expressed concerns about ethical issues involved in genomics research, calling attention to how research had previously been conducted in their community. Participants hoped personalized medicine might bring health benefits to their people and proposed African American communities have a “seat at the table.” They called for basic respect, authentic collaboration, bidirectional education, transparency and prerogative, and meaningful benefits and remuneration. Key to building trust and overcoming African Americans’ trepidation and resistance to participation in biobanks are early and persistent engagement with the community, partnerships with community stakeholders to map research priorities, ethical conduct of research, and a guarantee of equitable distribution of benefits from genomics discoveries.
PMCID: PMC3773318  PMID: 23813337
African American leaders; Community engagement in research; Genetics; Genomics; Biobanks; Health disparities; Research ethics
23.  Who's minding the shop? The role of Canadian research ethics boards in the creation and uses of registries and biobanks 
BMC Medical Ethics  2008;9:17.
The amount of research utilizing health information has increased dramatically over the last ten years. Many institutions have extensive biobank holdings collected over a number of years for clinical and teaching purposes, but are uncertain as to the proper circumstances in which to permit research uses of these samples. Research Ethics Boards (REBs) in Canada and elsewhere in the world are grappling with these issues, but lack clear guidance regarding their role in the creation of and access to registries and biobanks.
Chairs of 34 REBS and/or REB Administrators affiliated with Faculties of Medicine in Canadian universities were interviewed. Interviews consisted of structured questions dealing with diabetes-related scenarios, with open-ended responses and probing for rationales. The two scenarios involved the development of a diabetes registry using clinical encounter data across several physicians' practices, and the addition of biological samples to the registry to create a biobank.
There was a wide range of responses given for the questions raised in the scenarios, indicating a lack of clarity about the role of REBs in registries and biobanks. With respect to the creation of a registry, a minority of sites felt that consent was not required for the information to be entered into the registry. Whether patient consent was required for information to be entered into the registry and the duration for which the consent would be operative differed across sites. With respect to the creation of a biobank linked to the registry, a majority of sites viewed biobank information as qualitatively different from other types of personal health information. All respondents agreed that patient consent was needed for blood samples to be placed in the biobank but the duration of consent again varied.
Participants were more attuned to issues surrounding biobanks as compared to registries and demonstrated a higher level of concern regarding biobanks. As registries and biobanks expand, there is a need for critical analysis of suitable roles for REBs and subsequent guidance on these topics. The authors conclude by recommending REB participation in the creation of registries and biobanks and the eventual drafting of comprehensive legislation.
PMCID: PMC2636819  PMID: 19014594
24.  Researchers' opinions towards the communication of results of biobank research: a survey study 
Eighty Dutch investigators (response 41%) involved in biobank research responded to a web-based survey addressing communication of results of biobank research to individual participants. Questions addressed their opinion towards an obligation to communicate results and related issues such as ownership of blood samples, privacy, therapeutic relationship, costs and implications for participants. Most researchers (74%) indicated that participants only have to be informed when results have implications for treatment or prevention. Researchers were generally not inclined to provide more feedback to patients as compared with healthy participants, nor were they inclined to provide feedback in return for participants' contribution to the biobank. Our results demonstrate major and significant differences in opinion about the feedback of individual results within the community of biobank researchers.
PMCID: PMC3283180  PMID: 22126749
biobanks; genetic databases; disclosing results; researchers' opinions
25.  Developing a semantically rich ontology for the biobank-administration domain 
Biobanks are a critical resource for translational science. Recently, semantic web technologies such as ontologies have been found useful in retrieving research data from biobanks. However, recent research has also shown that there is a lack of data about the administrative aspects of biobanks. These data would be helpful to answer research-relevant questions such as what is the scope of specimens collected in a biobank, what is the curation status of the specimens, and what is the contact information for curators of biobanks. Our use cases include giving researchers the ability to retrieve key administrative data (e.g. contact information, contact's affiliation, etc.) about the biobanks where specific specimens of interest are stored. Thus, our goal is to provide an ontology that represents the administrative entities in biobanking and their relations. We base our ontology development on a set of 53 data attributes called MIABIS, which were in part the result of semantic integration efforts of the European Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure (BBMRI). The previous work on MIABIS provided the domain analysis for our ontology. We report on a test of our ontology against competency questions that we derived from the initial BBMRI use cases. Future work includes additional ontology development to answer additional competency questions from these use cases.
We created an open-source ontology of biobank administration called Ontologized MIABIS (OMIABIS) coded in OWL 2.0 and developed according to the principles of the OBO Foundry. It re-uses pre-existing ontologies when possible in cooperation with developers of other ontologies in related domains, such as the Ontology of Biomedical Investigation. OMIABIS provides a formalized representation of biobanks and their administration. Using the ontology and a set of Description Logic queries derived from the competency questions that we identified, we were able to retrieve test data with perfect accuracy. In addition, we began development of a mapping from the ontology to pre-existing biobank data structures commonly used in the U.S.
In conclusion, we created OMIABIS, an ontology of biobank administration. We found that basing its development on pre-existing resources to meet the BBMRI use cases resulted in a biobanking ontology that is re-useable in environments other than BBMRI. Our ontology retrieved all true positives and no false positives when queried according to the competency questions we derived from the BBMRI use cases. Mapping OMIABIS to a data structure used for biospecimen collections in a medical center in Little Rock, AR showed adequate coverage of our ontology.
PMCID: PMC4021870  PMID: 24103726

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