How to Ensure Sustainability of Biorepositories
Modern biomedical and translational research increasingly relies on data that can only be generated from large biosample collections. Biorepositories dramatically accelerate such research because the scientists do not have to spend a lot of time and funds on collection, curation, storage and maintenance of the necessary human tissue, cell, or DNA samples. As a result, the importance of biorepositories has widely been recognized in the scientific community, and a large number of such facilities are currently operating both in academic and industrial settings. However, these biorepositories usually provide services that are not easily quantifiable in monetary terms. Consequently, the financial sustainability of these facilities is an ongoing grave concern. 1,2
Biorepositories are very heterogeneous, and can vary in their organizational structure, size, and purpose. However, almost all these facilities are facing challenges on three major fronts: first, questions of governance, privacy protection and consent acquisition from all human donors; second, standardization of sample procurement and storage; and third and, perhaps, foremost, sustainability. 2 On the topic of sustainability, open debate has been heating up considerably over the past five years, evidenced by an onslaught of publications discussing economic sustainability models for biorepositories. 3
The upshot of these discussions brought to light the need for three essential components to achieve biorepository sustainability. The first and perhaps most obvious component consists of a precise business plan. This plan must involve a thorough analysis of the market and appropriate marketing strategies in addition to cost, fund and revenue determinations. 4 Devising this plan requires the expertise of both biomedical experts with scientific insights into the research fields that biorepositories support, and financial experts with the vision and knowledge to create fiscally sound strategies that take advantage of a variety of financial resources. These may include public funding sources, private venture capital, philanthropic donations, and research grants. In addition to these financial considerations, biorepositories should also develop business continuity and risk mitigation plans to weather adverse events such as natural disasters. As part of Brooks Life Sciences’ customer care portfolio, experienced specialists are able to provide expert assistance both for the creation of such plans and in emergency situations - explore a more detailed description of these services here.
Secondly, sustainability of biorepositories stands and falls with customer relations. To that end, each facility has to build trust, engage customers and tailor its operation to the customers’ needs. It is very important to maximize the value of the biorepository services for researchers and to minimize the scientists’ efforts to obtain high quality and relevant materials for their specific projects. 5
Finally, in addition to a sound business plan and excellent customer relations, having high quality, meticulously organized and well-documented biospecimens is the third vital parameter for sustainable biorepositories. 6 Of note, annotation of every biosample with precise and comprehensive metadata may be equally important as the sample quality and availability. Therefore, sample management, software and tracking systems have been recognized as vital components of the infrastructure of biorepositories, essential to ensure its utility for the customer, and therefore the facility’s sustainability. Brooks Life Sciences has a proven track record of successful sample management and our ISIDOR™ BioStudies biobank data management solution links sample inventory data with clinical, consent, phenotypical and laboratory data to ensure maximal tractability and information for every biosample. Check out this video for more information on this innovative tool.
1. Watson PH, Nussbeck SY, Carter C, O’Donoghue S, Cheah S, Matzke LAM, et al. A Framework for Biobank Sustainability. Biopreserv Biobank. 2014. 12:60–8. doi: 10.1089/bio.2013.0064. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4150367/
2. Chalmers D, Nicol D, Kaye J, Bell J, Campbell AV, Ho CW, et al. Has the biobank bubble burst? Withstanding the challenges for sustainable biobanking in the digital era. BMC Med Ethics. 2016. 17(1):39. doi: 10.1186/s12910-016-0124-2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4941036/
3. Doucet M, Yuille M, Georghiou L, Dagher G. Biobank sustainability: current status and future prospects. Journal of Biorepository Science for Applied Medicine 2017. 5:1–7. doi: 10.2147/BSAM.S100899. https://www.dovepress.com/biobank-sustainability-current-status-and-future-prospects-peer-reviewed-article-BSAM
4. Ciaburri M, Napolitano M, Bravo E. Business Planning in Biobanking: How to Implement a Tool for Sustainability. Biopreserv Biobank. 2017. 15(1):46-56. doi: 10.1089/bio.2016.0045. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5327055/
5. Kelly SM, Wiehagen LT, Schumacher PE, Dhir R. Methods to Improve Sustainability of a Large Academic Biorepository. Biopreserv Biobank. 2017. 15(1): 31–36. doi: 10.1089/bio.2016.0076. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5326922/
6. Henderson MK, Goldring K, Simeon-Dubach D. Achieving and Maintaining Sustainability in Biobanking Through Business Planning, Marketing, and Access. Biopreserv Biobank. 2017. 15(1):1-2. doi: 10.1089/bio.2016.0083. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5327033/
Steffen Porwollik, PhD, is a senior scientific writing consultant with APEX Think Corporation. With a background in genetics he has over 80 peer-reviewed research articles. He graduated with a Masters equivalent in Biochemistry from Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany and with a PhD in Molecular Biology from Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand. Steffen has been involved in genome sequencing from the get-go, being part of the team that published the very first complete bacterial genome, B. subtilis. He is currently involved in developing innovative high-throughput methods and tools to investigate functions of the entire repertoire of Salmonella genes on a systems biology level.