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Cementing Biobank Research – Opportunities for Medical Progress

1. National biobank symposium: scientists will collaborate even more closely

December 14, 2012. Biobank operators and researchers in Germany will in future collaborate more closely and jointly promote the standards for quality and transparency in biobank research. Politics supports the scientific community's self-organization process with a positive attitude. "Nevertheless, there is still a lack of funding for a universal infrastructure that would support a national pooling and coordination of activities and consolidate it on a sustainable basis." That was how Prof. Dr. Michael Krawczak, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the TMF, summed up the tenor of the presentations and discussions at the 1st National Biobank Symposium, which was attended by around 80 distinguished biobank researchers and representatives of ministries and politics in Berlin on December 12, 2012.

"Biobanks are extremely important, especially in personalized medicine: In cancer therapy, all the molecular tests with which the efficacy and tolerance of so-called targeted therapies are verified in advance in order to avoid unnecessary treatments are based on scientific tests using tissues from biobanks." This was emphasized by pathologist Prof. Dr. Manfred Dietel (Charité Berlin) in his presentation.

Public Funds for National Biobank Infrastructures

Internationally as well, the importance of biobanks for clinical practice, for the development of new medicinal drugs, for healthcare economics, and for the trust in biomedical research is regarded as vital. In Sweden, for example, as in numerous other countries, appropriate central infrastructures are being built with public funds. This was reported by Dr. Mark Divers, head of the biobank at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, who opened the symposium as an international speaker.

The speakers and participants at the event were in agreement about the main fields in which biobank research must be developed further over the next few years. It would be necessary to not only build central infrastructures but also conduct own biobank research.


Identifying Suitable Biomarkers

Scientific issues still have to be clarified, especially for the pre-analytical phase, i.e. the taking, processing and transport of biological samples prior to placement in storage at the biobank. In this area it is necessary to identify suitable biomarkers and, on this basis, develop standards for the documentation of quality. "In their capacity as users of the samples, the researchers could then receive appropriate information and decide whether the materials are suitable for their particular research issue," said PD Dr. Dr. Michael Kiehntopf (Jena University Hospital).

One useful tool for the assurance of quality across projects and sites might be collaborative trials, as have been established in laboratory medicine for many years. This was pointed out by Prof. Dr. Michael Neumaier (Institute of Clinical Chemistry, Mannheim Medical Faculty of the University of Heidelberg). Such collaborative trials based on meaningful biomarkers would be an important contribution to evidence-based use of biobanks.

Binding Standards and Central IT Infrastructures

In terms of quality, 10 years ago only a few of the first biobanks went beyond the collections of individual researchers in the institutes' refrigerators. No recommendations were available yet concerning standards. The situation has changed considerably now that the number of funded projects has increased for large disease-oriented biobanks and epidemiological biobanks, as was shown by Prof. Dr. Peter Schirmacher (Heidelberg University Hospital). He said that even though many questions still had to be answered, it was time to suitably pay tribute to what had been achieved so far. He pointed out that it was essential to usefully link the various networking activities with each other. It also involved universally harmonizing the Standard Operating Procedures for the processes within the biobanks themselves and specifying them in a binding manner.

Transparency across existing biobanks and the materials collected and available there is provided by the German Biobank Registry, which, at the hub of a central IT infrastructure, establishes the visibility of biobanks and transparency with regard to the use of funds and is laying the foundation stone for joint development of quality criteria.


Biobank Researchers Reach Consensus on a Self-Organized Basis

Prof. Dr. Michael Hummel (Charité Berlin) explained that at present the TMF biobanking working group represented a kind of cement promoting collaboration and keeping players together. The intensive, voluntary, TMF-assisted cooperation between the centralized biobanks, which have been funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research within the scope of the National Biobank Initiative since 2010, showed that it was possible to universally harmonize quality standards, IT structures and informed consent documents for biobanks.

Now that the National Biobank Symposium has been established, a forum is available to all groups involved in which it is possible to discuss and come to agreement on scientific and infrastructural issues at national level. The National Biobank Symposium is organized by the German Biobank Registry. It took place for the first time this year and from now on it will be held annually as a 2-day scientific congress to which there will be an open invitation. The 2nd National Biobank Symposium is scheduled to take place in Berlin on December 11 and 12, 2013.

  1. The German Biobank Registry

Agenda and presentation slide download (mostly in German)

  1. Building a shared national biobank infrastructure: the Swedish experience
    Mark Divers, PhD (Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Schweden) [PDF | 6MB]
  2. Tissue-Based Biobanking for Translational Predictive Research
    Prof. Dr. Manfred Dietel (German Society of Pathology) [PDF | 2MB]
  3. Biobanking for the Development of Innovative Diagnostics
    Prof. Dr. Joachim Thiery (German United Society of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine)
  4. Biobanking: Legal Requirements
    Prof. Dr. Jochen Taupitz (Universities of Heidelberg and Mannheim, member of the German Ethics Council)
  5. Ethical/Logistical Challenges in the Implementation of Open Consent in a Clinical Context
    Prof. Dr. Roland Jahns (Würzburg University Hospital) [PDF | 3MB]
  6. Liquid Biobanking: Current Situation and Perspectives
    PD Dr. Michael Kiehntopf (Jena University Hospital)
  7. Tissue Biobanking: Current Situation and Perspectives
    Dr. Esther Herpel (Heidelberg University Hospital) [PDF | 2MB]
  8. The Importance of Collaborative Trials for the Quality Assurance of Biobanks
    Prof. Dr. Michael Neumaier (Mannheim Medical Faculty of the University of Heidelberg)
  9. IT for Biobanks "in a Nutshell"
    Prof. Dr. Frank Ückert (University of Mainz Medical Center)
  10. Yes, we can! The National Biobank Initiative (incl. m4)
    Prof. Dr. Michael Hummel (Charité Berlin)
  11. The Tumor Tissue Banks Key Program of German Cancer Aid
    Prof. Dr. Guido Reifenberger (University of Düsseldorf) [PDF |2,5 MB]
  12. Biobanking in the National Cohort and Other Epidemiological Studies
    Prof. Dr. Dr. H.-Erich Wichmann (Helmholtz Center Munich) [PDF | 4 MB]
  13. The Project Portal in the German Biobank Registry and the CRIP Toolbox
    Dr. Christina Schröder (Fraunhofer IBMT) [PDF | 1,5 MB]
  14. German Biobank Registry and the Development To Date of a Biobanking Community Platform
    Sebastian C. Semler (TMF) [PDF | 2 MB]
  15. Overview: Biobanking in Networks and at the German Centers of Health Research
    Prof. Dr. Peter Schirmacher (Heidelberg University Hospital)
  16. No More Banking Crisis - Platform Instead of Rescue Package for Germany's Biobanks!
    Prof. Dr. Michael Krawczak (PopGen Biobank, Schleswig-Holstein University Hospital) [PDF | 1,5 MB]
  17. Why Does a Clinician Need Biobanks? Opportunities for the Future of Clinical Medicine
    Prof. Dr. Stefan Schreiber (Schleswig-Holstein University Hospital) [PDF | 1,5 MB]


Mark Divers, PhD   Prof. Dr. Manfred Dietel
Prof. Dr. Joachim Thiery
  Prof. Dr. Jochen Taupitz
Prof. Dr. Roland Jahns
  PD Dr. Dr. Michael Kiehntopf
Dr. Esther Herpel
  Prof. Dr. Michael Neumaier
Prof. Dr. Frank Ückert
  Prof. Dr. Michael Hummel
Prof. Dr. Guido Reifenberger
  Prof. Dr. Dr. H.-Erich Wichmann
Dr. Christina Schröder
  Sebastian C. Semler

Prof. Dr. Peter Schirmacher
  Prof. Dr. Michael Krawczak

Prof. Dr. Stefan Schreiber


Dr. Thomas Feist (CDU), MdB, lobte in seinem Statement zum Abschluss des Symposiums die Selbstorganisation und das Engagement der Biobanken-Forscher.

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