The third National Biobank Symposium strengthens collaboration in biobank research

290 biobank experts discuss the implementation of standards for sample quality and IT support, and explore ethical questions and public involvement

The third National Biobank Symposium strengthens collaboration in biobank research

3 December 2014. The third National Biobank Symposium spotlighted practical solutions to building and operating biobanks used in medical research. Approximately 290 scientists, biobank and IT experts, and medical professionals attended the event in Berlin on 3 and 4 December 2014. Originally initiated by TMF and hosted by the German Biobank Registry, this event has now become a firm annual fixture supporting dialogue among biobank operators and users. As Professor Michael Krawczak stresses, this intensive exchange of information makes an essential contribution towards strengthening biobanks in Germany. It is also an opportunity to raise awareness of biobanks and promote their work at an international level.

The overarching theme of the symposium was “From Concept to Execution”. On the first day, researchers and medical professionals presented their findings from clinical and epidemiological trials. The crucial role of an effective IT infrastructure was a key topic of discussion. IT resources, however, increase the need for standardisation in the description and documentation of samples. In an interview with TMF ahead of the symposium, Dr Sara Y. Nussbeck from the Medical Department at the University of Göttingen explained how defining standards at the start greatly simplifies IT-supported documentation. Moreover, she advocated raising the profile of existing standards and providing better training. Against this background, the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER) presented its initiatives and successful projects for advancing the efficient use of biomaterials in research.

German Biobank Node workshop

Representatives from German Biobank Node (GBN) project – part of the BBMRI-ERIC, a biobanking resources and research organisation funded by the European Commission – conducted a workshop at the symposium. German biobanks professionals met under the leadership of GBN coordinator Professor Michael Hummel (Charité University Hospital, Berlin), who also chairs the TMF work group for biobanking. The participants presented their plans and objectives, which include strengthening communications and creating public awareness of medical research using biobanks.

Cutting-edge research: using biomarkers to evaluate sample quality  

The second day of the symposium featured discussions on the ethical aspects of biobanking, and communication with supporting industries. Developing ways to ensure and evaluate the quality of biological samples was a major topic, which was reflected in two contributions from the USA. These included cryobiological findings and current, evidence-based research on biomarkers in sample collection, processing and storage.