What is a biobank?
A biobank is a safe house for tissue samples, tumour cells, DNA and blood samples used for medical research. Much like a normal bank account, you can deposit biomaterial to earn medical interest in the form of knowledge and treatments.
There are many types of biobanks including those for plants, seeds, animal material and human tissues.
Human biobanks are usually population-based or focused on disease. The majority of biobanks in NSW are cancer related, but some specialise in other areas such as brain and neurological disorders, kidney disease, etc.
The NSW Health Statewide Biobank only stores human bio-specimens at this stage to help support population studies and a wide-range of disease-specific research.
Who benefits from a biobank?
We all benefit from biobanks. They are vital to modern medical research and to our evolving knowledge of health and disease. They help researchers find the cause of illnesses and improve treatment for diseases.
Medical research reliant on samples from biobanks can include large population studies to help track long-term trends in health outcomes and disease-specific studies – such as for cancer, heart disease, dementia and diabetes.
The information and knowledge generated by researchers using samples and data from a biobank can greatly speed up the time it takes to get discoveries from the lab to patients.
Major features of the biobank
- Large-scale robotic technology to store and process around three million human bio-specimens
- Capacity to support large-scale population studies
- Fully automated barcode tracking system to ensure traceability and custody control of samples
- Automated DNA extraction
- Histopathology tissue processing capabilities
- Laboratory information management system
Ultra-low temperature storage to support long-term storage of samples using:
- Brooks BioStore II automated -80◦C storage facility
- Mechanical -80◦C freezers
- Reticulated nitrogen to cryovats for -196◦C
Blood collection facilities including:
- Phlebotomy service
- Automated fractionation of blood into its components (plasma, serum, buffy coat, RBCs etc.)