How could a coordinated ecosystem of specialist biobanks improve global research?


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Biobanks have become an essential cornerstone of medical research - enabling drug discovery and development, supporting biomarker research and deepening our understanding of disease mechanisms. As we advance towards an era of personalized medicine, the biobanking industry has, in turn, developed enhanced abilities to collect and analyze large numbers of biospecimens. 

The current model and its limitations

Governments around the world have rightly recognized the importance of biobanking’s role in advancing medicine. As such, in the past, the sector relied in no small degree on government funding and grants. However, this investment has declined in recent years, leading to concerns about the viability of the current model. Unfortunately, today, many biobanks are not financially self-sufficient. 

Improve coordination of research efforts 

arktic_compilationToday, there are large numbers of biobanks set up, carrying out separate initiatives of sample collection. However, research goals and objectives to inform what samples are most useful for scientific advancement, haven't been coordinated on a broader level. Because of this lack of high-level coordination, we face an overflow of potential supply in certain areas, with biobanks collecting the same types of samples that are not being called on sufficiently by research organizations. To ensure the productive use of research resources, we need to create an ecosystem that promotes better focus in sample collection. This focus will allow samples to move more sustainably through the system and ultimately benefit scientific research. In this environment, research demand for samples should proactively drive the collection process of specific sample types. This scenario would set up biobanks to succeed, backed by a clear mission. With clear objectives in mind, they will collect samples with purpose. In a sustainable model, biobank success shouldn’t be measured by the number of collected samples, but rather on its utilization.  This latter measure speaks to how relevant the biobank's efforts are towards driving the research effort. As these success outcomes shift, we may then begin to see an infrastructure geared more towards specialist providers with deep expertise within particular sample types. The sample collections held in individual biobanks are likely to get smaller and more focused as a consequence. 

Sustainability is more important than ever 

The current pandemic crisis may ultimately increase funding in scientific research and once again bring further investment into the biobanking industry. In response, I hope that we start to see this more strategic approach take shape. By driving a coordinated approach between global stakeholders, we can work together to define research goals, prioritize the most critical initiatives and develop strategic plans that inform sample collection initiatives down to the individual biobank level. 

Improved coordination would lead to a substantial impact on research and enable us to focus on quality over quantity. With each biobank armed with a clear vision of its sample collection goals, research organizations would be able to feel more confident that they are going to the right biobank to answer the right research question. Biobanks can be satisfied that their business model is workable with the imbalance of demand and supply resolved, and having defined a clear position within the research community by offering access to the right samples. Ultimately this more efficient system would be beneficial for researchers and suppliers alike, as well as for the life science sector as a whole.   

To learn more about automated storage check out our recorded webinar 'Automated sample storage – Is it worth it?' which considers if automated sample storage is a worthwhile investment, including any benefits to sample quality and the impact this could have on your research. We will also review and compare the associated investment of an automated sample storage solution versus manual approaches.