What is a biobank?


A biobank serves to preserve human biological material with its associated data and make it available for scientific research.  This refers to biological material, namely blood, urine, organ tissue (eg. appendix), muscle biopsies, …,  collected from an individual, which is stored at the appropriate temperature (room temperature, -20 °C, -40 °C, -80 °C, (gas phase) liquid nitrogen) to guarantee the quality of the material over time.

This human biological material can be collected from patients with a particular disease, for example, multiple sclerosis (MS), leukemia, ... In the context of a diagnosis and/or treatment, surplus biological material can be collected. In this case, the term residual material is used and patient's consent is not required. If the biological material is collected in the context of scientific research, patients approval is required. To this end, the patient needs to  sign the informed consent as is stated by the Belgian Law of  December 19th 2008. The biological material stored at UBiLim can also be obtained from healthy individuals who voluntarily participate in the study. These donors must also sign an informed consent. If one wishes not to participate in scientific research, one can appeal against just by expressing this feeling towards the treating physician.

Scientific research can have an impact on healthcare. It can, for instance, provide more insight in the cause of the disease, the course of the disease or the effect of the treatment. To obtain reliable results when performing scientific research, it is essential to have well documented starting material, namely human biological material, which is of high quality. The quality of the stored biological material is largely depending on the conditions to which this material is exposed to between the time of collection and the time of storage (temperature, processing time, centrifugation speed, storage media, etc). These pre-analytical factors are well documented for each sample in a biobank. To this end, it guarantees that samples stored in a biobank are well documented and of high quality. Moreover, the availability of material in a biobank can dramatically shorten the duration of research. Overall, biobank-based studies can more rapidly result in a valuable contribution to health care.