Unlocking academia-industry collaboration on sample collection, storage and sharing
COVID-19 has demonstrated that access to quality samples and clinical data is key to facing any healthcare challenge. Millions of people have been tested around the world, generating an enormous number of samples and patients’ data.
Of course, swabs can have a life after the results of diagnostic tests are shared with patients and their clinicians. Tissue samples and associated data can be collected and stored in biobanks for researchers to use
Biobanking COVID-19 samples can be a step towards a solution to this pandemic and to many of the large healthcare challenges of our time. Biobanks also have enormous untapped potential for developing innovative cancer treatments and making personalized medicine a reality.
Their success relies on access to high quality samples. Biobanks can provide samples, patients’ data, and knowledge to ensure reproducible results in research. The relatively young field of biobanking has matured significantly in the past decade and continues to evolve at both technical and regulatory level, with some outstanding leaders in Europe that represent the pinnacle of biobanking technology.
And yet, as a recent Nature Biotechnology editorial reported, ‘81% of researchers are constrained by the inadequate quantity and quality of biospecimens and 80% of companies find accessing materials difficult.*
What is the role of medtech
Medtech companies have a dual role in the biobanking community. The industry provides equipment and services to biobanks and, at the same time, are increasingly using samples to test in vitro diagnostics and medical devices.
Therefore, a closer collaboration among the leading organisations representing biobanks and the medtech sector could have a positive impact on increasing the quality of samples and, at the same time, increasing access to samples.
Companies can share expertise and educate biobanks on specific topics like cryopreservation, cold chain logistics or pre-analytic requirements for predictive genomics. This will help to build, design and expand biobanks in Europe.
As users of biobanking services that are facing new regulatory requirements, medtech manufacturers need control samples of defined quality. They can benefit, for example, from access to samples from one donor prepared by different methods. This kind of resource will be of great value for validation studies.
In sum, it is mutually beneficial for the biobanking community and medtech to work together and facilitate a dialogue among the key players. BBMRI-ERIC is an international organisation under EU law, that facilitates access to over 600 biobanks, holding over 100 million samples across Europe, all on a not-for-profit base. It is the largest network of biobanks in Europe, bringing together the biobanking community.
Developing a public-private partnership in our field would represent a quick and effective ‘win-win’ for both industry and the biobanking community.
Let’s build this underdeveloped partnership together.