European biobanking initiative prototype system for 2010

7 July 2009

The European Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure (BBMRI) was launched in February 2008 and aims to form a central computerised system linking the records of biological samples held in different research centres and biobanks across Europe (see previous news). It has recently completed a review of over 300 major European Biobanks, and is hoping to develop a prototype system which will allow European researchers access to a wide collection of quality-assessed samples and data by 2010 (see news story). Currently the infrastructure includes information from 51 participating institutes and 190 associated organisation representing 30 EU and associated countries. The prototype system will initially work with the most advanced biobanks that pose the fewest difficulties and add on others as they are ready.

A number of difficulties have to be overcome prior to creating a functional system. As data is being aggregating from a wide variety of systems, information about samples may have been collected differently and to different degrees depending on the country. Quality assessment of these samples, especially those which had been collected many years ago may be difficult due gaps in information about them. With regards to samples that will be collected in the future, and agreement has to be reached between all participating biobanks in order to ensure standardisation and harmonisation of sample collection procedures. According to the project managers a potential bottleneck may be the harmonisation of the varying ethical and legal requirements of the different Member states (see news story). Along with differences in interpretation of EU legislation, public attitudes may vary between countries. It is also likely that attitudes to research may change over time, meaning that the governance structure will have to be able to respond to future challenges. In order to gauge public perspectives on biomedical research, the BBMRI is conducting a focus group and has included questions about biobanking in the Eurobarometer survey which is conducted by the European Commission to monitor social and political attitudes.



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