Biobanking is an exciting sector in the biological pharmaceutical industry. Biobanking involves collecting tissue samples or bodily fluids (urine, blood, etc.) for research purposes. All of this research helps improve understanding of general health and specific diseases.
Biobanks can also collect information like weight, height, and other health-related questions to give context to the samples. Depending on the research or study, they may keep the sample for many years or indefinitely in varying pharmaceutical storage conditions for sample management.
Biobanks give researchers access to a large pool of high-quality human samples and associated data. Biobanks serve as reliable hubs for storing and processing samples from clinical trials and other sources.
Advantages of Biobanking
Check out some of the benefits of biobanking
- Improved Accuracy in Pharmaceutical Studies
Biobanks store the samples collected in the freezer unit at -80oC or about -165oC in the gas phase of liquid nitrogen. Personnel usually monitor these samples round the clock, so if there is a failure of cooling units, a business continuity plan can take over. This makes bio storage a vital part of biobanks catering to the need for accuracy in pharmaceutical studies.
Biobanks are capable of receiving, storing, processing, and discarding samples with the highest level of accuracy and hygiene. Besides human samples, biobanks could also house DNA from animals, bacterial strains, and environmental samples from soils and plants that give a robust infrastructure for scientific research.
- Gives Undeveloped and Developed Areas Easy Access to Data
Biobanks benefits developed and developing areas alike. In developing regions like some regions of Africa, where they may not have good internet connectivity, reliable access to electricity, access to water, etc., it might be challenging to operate biobanks by global standards. Biobanks are available in developed areas where they have the resources to run them. These biobanks share their data with other parts of the world that researchers there may not have biobanks locally.
On the flip side, access to samples from developing areas of the world can be a rare gem to biobanks worldwide because of the variety. Access to a larger genetic pool will make their research more varied and accurately understood. Africa has broad genetic diversity, and access to that would give biobanks a better understanding of diseases for developing medicines, vaccines, and treatments.
- Replicating Experimental Results
One of the crucial pillars of proper scientific research is replicating the results of an experiment to verify its authenticity. Biobanks give scientists and researchers access to vast genetic samples that they can test to duplicate results and demonstrate outcomes. Regardless of the outcome of the tests – success or failure, it can help a great deal in verifying results that the community can trust and use.
Even though biobanks are usually associated with high costs, it is generally worth it because each biobank gives additional quality assurance and control. Developing countries, in particular, will significantly benefit from investing in the production and maintenance of these facilities.
- Improve The Reproducibility Rate of Experiments
This is similar to replicating experimental results but this ties to the reproducibility rate. Today, studies show that scientists have only a 38% reproducibility rate of other scientists’ experiments around the world, which is very low. Also, the number of scientists that can reproduce their experiments is only 50%. This makes research difficult and places an enormous financial burden on researchers and scientists that costs upwards of $28 billion yearly on studies they cannot replicate.
Regardless of the size of the biobank facility, their quality control processes can help significantly increase reproducibility on experiments to a great extent. Putting quality control in context, an average pharmaceutical company loses about $150,000 yearly in temperature slips when transporting medicine or samples, which brings us to our next point – quality assurance/control.
- Quality Assurance
Biobanks have built trust in their functions and procedures because of the high-quality assurance procedures for handling all samples. Biobanks ensure no breaks, contamination, or challenges in the entire lifecycle of samples, including transportation, processing, storage, and analysis. All the processes follow international sample management and quality control standards, so the samples don’t get compromised.
Biobanks manage that risk so that all the biospecimens in their care remain viable and keep their quality. In turn, when researchers use biobanks, they are reassured that all the samples they have access to are controlled and consistent. Biobanks act as mediators for reproducible scientific research as they ensure that all the stakeholders follow protocols in a harmonised and standardised way.
- Improved Resolution and Understanding to The Most Dangerous Diseases
The facilities of biobanks make it easier and more convenient for scientists to study diseases from the samples collected over time. The research helps scientists make essential discoveries in developing medicines and cures for some fatal diseases. Biobanks have helped save thousands of lives yearly in the UK and the world at large. Imagine all the drugs and medications for smallpox, polio, or malaria, thanks to biobanks and research facilities.
Even though most first-world countries have reduced or thoroughly eliminated many life-threatening diseases, we can’t say the same about the rest of the world. However, biobanks have contributed significantly to reducing infant mortality rates in these developing countries. For diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia that we don’t have cures for yet, biobanks serve as one of the major diseases for experimentation, research, and new treatments that are constantly evolving.
- Cancer Research
One of the diseases that have plagued humans for many years without any significant strides in preventing the number of deaths and morbidity worldwide is cancer. Even though the science of oncology has made considerable strides in the last decade, there is still more work. Biobanks are an essential part of personalised medicine developed with the three pillars of cancer research – metabolomics, epigenomics, and proteomics. Profound development in cancer research results from the prognostic, therapeutic, and diagnostic aspects. Biobanks contributed heavily in identifying biomarkers and prospective pharmaceutical treatment.
Cancer biobanks are specialised systems for storing cancer samples and all the data associated in a planned and systematic manner. These biobanks have helped in cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer worldwide, making it a keep element of personalised medicine. Biobanks will play a vital role in the future for revolutionising research, advancing genetic studies, and identifying future drug targets.
- Helping Combating Covid-19
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, no cure or vaccine was available that could work for the strain, which sent the entire scientific community into a frenzy. There was increased pressure on the scientific community to develop a cure for combating the deadly virus. Biobanks played an essential role in collecting samples and giving researchers access to these samples in a short while, even amidst the lockdown and social distancing procedures.
Soon, there was an effective vaccine for combating the vaccine in record time. After that, many other types of vaccines followed, showing the strength of biobanks and how sharing data and information can help us together achieve results far faster than usual. The study hasn’t stopped, and biobanks are again at the forefront of research, giving scientists access to varied samples when needed in the continued coronavirus research and how to combat it.
- Increased Infrastructure Development
Biobanking has continued to improve processes and give easier access to information that will not slow down anytime soon. In the coming years, it is expected that biobanking will completely transform the world and establish itself as a critical element of research infrastructure development. All of this is so that an increase in investments will significantly foster scientific advancements that will impact a nation’s economy. Biobanks will substantially influence our understanding of human medicines, health, illnesses, and customised treatments.
The scope of biobanking has expanded from small operations to complex enterprises cutting across countries and continents. Introducing computerisation and automation to these procedures has evolved the administration of biobanks for the better. You can conveniently store specimens in a database and easily retrieve them without hassle. If the finances are available, biobanks can even utilise robots to accelerate the processing and sampling steps.
Building Your Biobank or Outsourcing
As an organisation, depending on the research area and samples you handle, there may be a need to build your biobank. However, there are some factors you need to consider in creating your biobank, including where and how you intend to store all the specimens you collect. Also, you need to consider how essential it is to build a custom biorepository or outsource your biobanking needs completely.
The answers to the above questions are complex and will vary depending on the organisation and its operations. It is essential to know that every research project has its own goals, and therefore the biological materials can differ considerably in scope, handling constraints, storage requirements, and size.
We’re going to consider the advantages of building your biobank compared with outsourcing your biobank needs so you can choose the best path forward for your study.
Benefits of Building Your Biobank
Check out some of the advantages of building your biobank for your organisation.
Built to Specifications
You can build your biobank to fit your unique needs and research parameters. This will remove any need for configuring or reduce the time taken to learn the system. Building your biobank to custom specifications includes considering the type of freezers (mechanical or LN2 storage), choosing the laboratory information management system (LIMS), and determining the duration of storage. You will typically do this in conjunction with the researchers who will regularly interface with the biobank.
If you’re building a biobank, your organisation has complete autonomy over all of the parameters of collection, handling, and storing biosamples. You are also better positioned to control proprietary information response methods to challenges, compliance, and expenses. In handling compliance, you should remember that depending on what you’re storing, biorepositories are subject to regulations made by appropriate regulatory bodies that apply to the samples you’re handling.
It is not unusual that you may need to make some changes in your processes, variables, parameters, etc. Doing this on a biobank system you do not have control over could be disastrous and put roadblocks to completing the project. On the other hand, when you have your biobank, you can easily adjust collection, handling, and storage conditions as your research need change.
Having your biobank means access won’t be a problem for any stakeholders involved in the project. Since it is on-prem, you can access your biosamples quickly and run any tests you want without needing permission or waiting for a long time. This dramatically improves the speed of research projects and removes a lot of red tape in acquiring data.
Benefits of Outsourcing Your Biobank Needs
Check out some of the advantages of outsourcing your biobank needs.
Minimal Additional Personnel
Since you don’t have to worry about maintaining the biobank or keeping it in good condition, you don’t need specialised staff to handle that. You can focus on the core research team required for the project and study to get your work going. The only staff you need are those that will manage the outsourcing contract, which is far smaller than the people you need to build your biobank from the ground up.
It won’t take you half as much time getting a biobank to outsource your needs compared with building one from scratch. You can quickly get a compatible biobank in a short while and get your operations running in no time. You don’t have to worry about any delays in the biobank construction phase and focus wholly on your work.
Short Term Storage
Depending on the research, there may be a need to store your samples for only a couple of months, and building your facility just for that isn’t worth it. You can quickly sign a short-term contract with a biobank to store all of the samples you intend to use for the study and then destroy or discard them.
Biobanks have been paving the way for new scientific advancements and breakthroughs in the scientific community worldwide. It has served as a tool in helping see all of the various risk factors that can cause disease and all the associated information. However, there are still many technological, ethical, legal, and social concerns we need to overcome to better use biobanks.