What is a biobank?

According to TIME magazine in 2009, biobanks were one of the ten things that were predicted to change the world that year1.A biobank is defined as “a facility for the collection, preservation, storage and supply of biological specimens and associated data, which follows standardized operating procedures and provides material for scientific and clinical use.2” 

A typical biobank workflow goes as followed: 

  1. Informed consent is obtained from the patient or a healthy volunteer
  2. The patient donates a sample (blood, urine, …)
  3. Samples are transported to the biobank 
  4. The samples are processed and stored at the right storage temperature
  5. Sample data is coded and stored in a database
  6. The samples are made available for research

Human body material can be collected from patients with a particular disease (disease-related biobanks) or from large groups of people (population biobanks). The samples can be used for biomarker discovery, drug development and translational clinical research.

  1. Park A. 10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now – Biobanks. Time Magazine 2009 Mar 12;173(11).
  2. Hewitt R, Watson P. Defining biobank. Biopreserv Biobank. 2013 Oct;11(5):309-15.

What is a biospecimen?

Human biospecimens are defined as any biological material taken from a human individual for diagnostic or research purposes. 

Some examples are:

  • Tissues (skin, tumours, bone,…)
  • Cells
  • Fluids (blood, cerebral spinal fluid, urine, saliva,…)