In the interview with MEDICA.de, Prof. Peter Schirmacher talks about the technical status quo of sample storage, the situation in Germany and other research-focused countries and what significance the promotion of biobanks has for research.
Prof. Schirmacher, in general terms, what is biobanking?
Peter Schirmacher: Scientific biobanking is the quality assured collection, preparation, assessment, processing and specific distribution of generally human biological samples for use in research. We differentiate between tissue biobanking and liquid biobanking. Due to their different structure and requirements, it is important to differentiate clinical biobanking, meaning samples collected from patients, and population-based biobanking, meaning samples collected from typically healthy test subjects within the scope of epidemiology studies.
What is today’s state-of-the-art when it comes to storing tissue samples, their utilization and the organization of inventory?
Schirmacher: Modern research biobanks are large, specialized facilities at research-focused locations with highly qualified staff. Those are physicians to evaluate the samples, technical assistants, documentarians, IT specialists, quality and project managers, economists and bioinformaticians. More than 20 associates have overseen more than 2,000 research projects at the Central Biomaterial Bank Heidelberg, BMBH. Aside from the appropriate cooling and storage technology, you need a wide technology platform that enables the efficient validation and processing of samples as well as the production of derivatives such as extracts or tissue microarrays.
The trend in storage technology clearly moves towards robotic or automated systems, which require big investments. Biosamples are precious commodities and we need to ensure their optimal use in research. This includes standardized project and quality management, secured ethical and legal parameters including a data protection concept, a sophisticated IT platform, business management, continuing education options and even specific public relations and communications.