Getting the message about biobanking: returning to the basics

Daniel Catchpoole
2017 Journal of Biorepository Science for Applied Medicine  
Much has been written about biobanks and biobanking. Since biobanking rose to prominence in the 1990s and became a scientific discipline in its own right, the collection and distribution of human tissue samples or "biospecimens" has been the subject of much critique, debate, and assessment. However, what is the message these discussions provide the wider research community? Are they reflective of progression of a new discipline? Do they represent clarity in the field or confusion? At one point
more » ... e are told that biobanks are vital infrastructure, yet in the next breath we are told that biobanks are complex, full of risk, inefficient, and unsustainable. Biobanks struggle to receive sustainable funding with many restructuring or closing down, producing dilemmas about what to do with the legacy resources. This review critiques five key messages being relayed by the biobanking community, identifying the five messages that are actually being received by the research community. It also presents a "back to basics" view for biobanking that will return our attention back to five fundamental principles that should guide the ongoing discussion. This includes that biobanking is about the active provision of tissue for research that is vital for improved health outcomes. This activity is founded in human interrelationships, is already performed routinely within hospitals, and is driven by the opportunity to learn from the information contained within the biospecimens. The examples provided will be drawn from New South Wales, Australia, where building a state-wide biobanking infrastructure has been implemented, and which highlight areas where back to basics approach will be beneficial. A back to basics view of biobanking will highlight that the current positions proposed to deal with these issues are mere "straw men" solutions and that the need for a fundamental shift in our thinking is the real issue that needs to be addressed. Or so we are told! The growth of the biobank industry over the past 20 years has been identified by Time magazine as one of the top 10 innovations in 2009. 1 Indeed, the prevalence of literature detailing biobank structures, operations, practice, and purpose demonstrates how the discipline of biobanking has embedded itself into the mindset of biomedical researchers. Biobanks are found in almost every country, 2,3 medical research institute and university, 4,5 comprehensive cancer centres, 6 and hospitals. 7 Major research groups
doi:10.2147/bsam.s101405 fatcat:pnlmrbppo5dltarvl4cpjs6lbm