Collections of biological materials and associated data are termed “biobanks” and comprise a broad variety of sample and data collections, e.g. in forensic institutes, blood banks, tissue culture collections etc..
The German National Ethics Council defines biobanks more concisely as “collections of samples of human bodily substances (e.g. cells, tissue, blood, or DNA as the physical medium of genetic information) that are or can be associated with personal data and information on their donors ( Opinion Biobanks for Research). In the Council’s view, “Biobanks have a twofold character, as collections of both samples and data”.
Human Tissue Banks for Medical Research
To develop faster and better cures of human disease, one must combine clinical, cellular and molecular data of patients. Human tissue is the “missing link” between these realms: It provides a bridge between molecular information obtained e.g. by array technologies, and clinical information from the donor’s medical records.
Thus analysis of human tissue enables researchers to study the molecular characteristics of actual disease, and then correlate those patterns with what is known about the clinical progression of the disease. Therefore, human biospecimen annotated with clinical data is a resource of utmost importance for progress in medicine. Specifically, human biospecimens can be used to:
- Identify and validate drug targets
- Identify disease mechanisms
- Develop screening tests for “biomarkers” associated with certain sub-types of a disease
- Group patients based on their genetic characteristics and likelihood of positive response, for testing of new drugs
- Group patients based on the “biomarkers” of their disease to determine which treatment is appropriate