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Evaluating biobanks’ success based on their value for research

250 attendees in Berlin for the fifth National Biobank Symposium

15 December 2016. In future, biobanks’ success should be measured not only by the number of samples they store – but on how many of those resources are leveraged for research projects. This suggestion was made by Dominic Allen, Chief Operating Officer at the Integrated BioBank of Luxembourg (IBBL), during his keynote address at the beginning of the fifth German National Biobank Symposium. The event drew approximately 250 attendees to Berlin, Germany, on 7 and 8 December 2016.

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Big data: improving data accessibility, integration and usability

150 attendees at a Berlin conference on the challenges and benefits of big data analytics in healthcare and research

14 December 2016. “X-rays, CT and MRI scans, and blood tests, generate huge volumes of heterogeneous data. Plus there are doctors’ reports and treatment histories in electric health records in hospital information systems (HIS). This data can be leveraged for research to improve patient care. But before this can take place, we need to improve and ensure data accessibility, integration and usability – enabling big-data analytics to be evidence-based,” emphasised Sebastian C. Semler (TMF) at a conference on big data in Berlin on 13 December 2016. The event was jointly hosted by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs (BMWI)’s Smart Data initiative, the Bundesverband Gesundheits-IT (bvitg; an association of German healthcare IT providers), and TMF.

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Verifying the reliability, safety and ethics of IT systems for clinical research

TMF training workshop on system validation

8 December 2016. Over 20 participants from 16 research institutions converged at TMF on 8 December for a training workshop. Their goal: to obtain and exchange information on best practices and requirements for validating IT systems for clinical studies – specifically in GCP (good clinical practice) environments. The workshop was based on recently updated TMF documents on system validation.

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Advanced Docker: from testing to production

TMF workshop on applying Docker containers to medical research

8 December 2016. Docker is a recent yet popular software containerisation technology for the lean, resource-efficient virtualisation of IT applications. A TMF workshop in Berlin on 7 December 2016 provided in-depth guidance on Docker containers to attendees with prior experience. Specifically, it considered the orchestration of various containers, scenarios drawn from ongoing operations, and the deployment of container management solutions such as Google Kubernetes.

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A Bit of Berlin in Bethesda

Biobanking highlights in a nutshell at ISBER Regional Meeting 2016

14 November 2016. Highlights and conclusions from the ISBER Annual Meeting held in Berlin/Germany in April 2016 were summarized in a session chaired by Roman Siddiqui (TMF/Germany) and Cari Lichtman (American Cancer Society/USA) at the ISBER Regional Meeting in Bethesda/USA on November 7, 2016. This was another opportunity to present Germany’s vibrant and well-organized biobanking community.

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Expanding the role of informatics in medicine: fresh impetus for research and healthcare

The BMBF’s Medical Informatics funding scheme takes effect

12 October 2016. The German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) recently launched its Medical Informatics initiative with the aim of improving the use of healthcare and research data. Specifically, the new funding scheme is intended to strengthen medical research and enhance patient care. To this end, BMBF will allocate 100 million euros over the coming years. During the first phase, consortia of university hospitals and partner organisations (e.g. research institutions, private clinics) will build and connect data integration centres. This will allow research and medical care data to be exchanged across multiple sites. In addition, the partners will simultaneously develop innovative IT solutions for concrete medical applications.

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Zoonoses: ancient pathogens offer lessons for the future

National Symposium on Zoonoses Research 2016 on October 13–14 in Berlin to showcase topics ranging from archaeogenetics to the Zika virus

6 Oktober 2016. Analysis of the genomes of very old pathogens can shed new light on the infectious diseases of today and of the future – and that includes zoonoses. Zoonoses are diseases which are transmitted between humans and animals. They constitute the majority of known infectious diseases in humans. At the National Symposium on Zoonoses Research on October 13–14, 2016 in Berlin, Prof Johannes Krause (Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History) will give a talk on how the study of ancient pathogens could enable the prediction and prevention of future infectious diseases.

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Dockerbank: biomedical IT solutions containerised

TMF workshop shows high demand for practical tools for managing software architectures

16 September 2016. Biomedical informatics specialists support research and deliver innovative IT tools and services. But evaluating, installing and configuring these tools and services remains a complicated business. Docker containers make it possible to load and run applications with just a single command. Users from a wide range of user groups (routine hospital IT, research institutes and centres, research networks) came together at a training workshop organised by TMF to explore the theory behind the Docker architecture and to practice setting up their own Docker containers.

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Denmark enjoys exceptionally rich epidemiological data across multiple life stages and situations

TMF’s biobanking working group visits the Danish National Biobank in Copenhagen

6 September 2016. Denmark issues a unique personal identification number (CPR number) to its residents, enabling cradle-to-grave epidemiological research. The CPR number is also used to deliver healthcare, and is tied to various registries and databases that store information on individuals’ life stages and situations. Additionally, samples kept in biobanks are linked in multiple ways to medical and demographic data. On 5 September 2016, members of TMF’s biobanking working group visited the Danish National Biobank (DNB) in Copenhagen. While they were impressed by the DNB’s scientific value and research potential, they noted that the current political and legal environment in Germany would not permit the establishment of a similar, highly interconnected infrastructure. 

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“Scientific infrastructure is becoming more and more important in the life sciences”

Interview with Dr Katja Hartig (DFG) on the launch of projects utilising TMF services

September 2016. Last year, the DFG invited applications for grants for research projects making use of TMF services. Work on the projects selected is now starting. Dr Katja Hartig, Programme Director Medicine at DFG, discusses the objectives of the grants provided and what the DFG is doing to help organisations better handle their research data and to expand and operate the research infrastructure that this requires.

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