10 Largest Biobanks in the World

Source: Gerd Altmann, no changes made, CC0 Creative Commons.

The following biobanks are some of the largest in the world, most of which are part of national government funded population-health based studies. There are some notable exceptions such as the Shanghai Zhangjiang Biobank which is industry and government backed. Not all the biobanks have reached their target size. Some biobanks report number of samples rather than participant numbers. A participant may donate multiple samples such as blood, urine, cancer tumors, spinal fluid, fat samples, umbilical cord blood, saliva samples and others such as teeth. When tissues are processed and divided for experiments these are also considered samples and may be stored, therefore biobanks such as “All of Us” biobank will contain considerably more than one million samples when it is completed with a target of 1 million participants. The Shanghai Zhangjiang Biobank has a 10 million sample target, so both “All of Us” and the Shanghai Zhangjiang Biobank are on course to be the largest in the world, although neither is complete. Ultimately it is the volume of quality scientific knowledge generated by a given biobank that should be the ultimate measure of its success.

Shanghai Zhangjiang Biobank

Target size: 10 million human derived samples

A commercial biobank, the Zhangjiang Biobank is located on Li Bing Road in “Zhangjiang Science City”, Pudong district, Shanghai, China. It is reported that the biobank is projected to reach a storage capacity of 10 million human derived samples such as human tissue, cells, blood, and intestinal microflora. Tumour tissues are preserved in paraffin wax for room temperature storage and samples are also frozen using liquid nitrogen storage tanks.

The Biobank is owned and operated by Shanghai Outdo Biotech Co., Ltd., and has received a first phase investment of nearly 100 million yuan. The company aims to establish a “Resource Center” of biological samples for major diseases and a “biological sample virtual information center”. The Biobank has an integrated high-throughput genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and other one-stop research platforms on site. The aim is to convert R&D into products quickly. To date four products from the biobank have achieved approval of the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA). One of the products include a liver cancer early diagnosis and early screening kit for self-testing at home. Reportedly it works in a similar manner to blood glucose test strips.

“All of Us” biobank

Target size: 1 million participants

By enrolling one million or more volunteers, the USA based “All of Us” Research Program will have the scale and scope to enable research for a wide range of diseases, both common and rare, as well as increase understanding of healthy states. Additionally, a research program of this size will have the statistical power to detect associations between environmental and/or biological exposures and a wide variety of health outcomes. Among the scientific opportunities presented by All of Us is the ability to:

  • develop ways to measure risk for a range of diseases based on environmental exposures, genetic factors and interactions between the two;
  • identify the causes of individual differences in response to commonly used drugs (commonly referred to as pharmacogenomics);
  • discover biological markers that signal increased or decreased risk of developing common diseases;
  • use mobile health (mHealth) technologies to correlate activity, physiological measures and environmental exposures with health outcomes;
  • develop new disease classifications and relationships;
  • empower study participants with data and information to improve their own health; and
  • create a platform to enable trials of targeted therapies.

The All of Us Research Program is committed to engaging multiple sectors and forging strong partnerships with academic and other non-profit researchers, patient groups, and the private sector to capitalize on work already underway. The program will set the foundation for new ways of engaging research participants, sharing health data and information, and employing technology advances to mine the information for comprehensive results.

The International Agency For Research On Cancer (IARC) Biobank (IBB)

Size: samples from 562,000 individuals

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is part of the World Health Organization (WHO). The aim of the IARC is to promote international collaboration in cancer research. The Agency is inter-disciplinary, converging skills in epidemiology, laboratory sciences and biostatistics to identify the causes of cancer so that preventive measures may be taken reducing the burden of disease. The IBB contains 5.1 million biological samples from 562,000 individuals. The EPIC study contributes over 370,000 individuals and 4 million of the samples. Around one million samples from other collections with close to 200,000 individuals. Most of the samples are body fluids, including plasma, serum, urine and extracted DNA samples.

China Kadoorie Biobank

Size: over 510,000 participants

The China Kadoorie Biobank (CKB), known previously as the Kadoorie Study of Chronic Disease in China (KSCDC), is set up to investigate the main genetic and environmental causes of common chronic diseases in the Chinese population. During 2004-8, over 510,000 adults were recruited from 10 geographically defined regions of China, with extensive data collection by questionnaire and physical measurements, and with long-term storage of blood samples for future study. All the participants are now being closely monitored for death and other health-related outcomes through linkage with established registries and health insurance databases in the study areas. Every few years, periodic re-surveys are also to be conducted in about 25,000 surviving participants, with a repeat interview, measurements and blood collection (as in the baseline survey) to help assess changes of risk exposures in the study population. This large, well-established, study will be a uniquely powerful and rich resource for investigating the main causes of many common chronic diseases over the next few decades, and the information generated will advance our understanding of disease aetiology not only in China but also in other countries.

UK Biobank

Size: 500,000 participants

UK Biobank is a major national and international health resource, and a registered charity in its own right, with the aim of improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of serious and life-threatening illnesses – including cancer, heart diseases, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, eye disorders, depression and forms of dementia. UK Biobank recruited 500,000 people aged between 40-69 years in 2006-2010 from across the country to take part in this project. They have undergone measures, provided blood, urine and saliva samples for future analysis, detailed information about themselves and agreed to have their health followed. Over many years this will build into a powerful resource to help scientists discover why some people develop particular diseases and others do not.

FINNGEN biobanks

Target size: 500,000 participants

A unique study that combines genome information with digital health care data has been launched in Finland. The FinnGen study plans to analyse up to 500 000 unique blood samples collected by a nation-wide network of Finnish biobanks. The goal is to deepen understanding about the origins of diseases and their treatment. The project is expected to continue for six years, with a current budget of €59M.

Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project Biobank

Size: Over 300,000 participants

The Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project (CPTP) is Canada’s largest group of volunteer research participants (population cohort), built to address key questions about what causes cancer and chronic disease. Over 300,000 Canadians aged 30-74 years have joined CPTP; they were recruited from five regional cohorts—BC Generations Project, Alberta’s Tomorrow Project, Ontario Health Study, CARTaGENE, and Atlantic PATH.

EuroBioBank network

Size: More than 150,000 biological samples

In 2017, EuroBioBank Network was composed of 25 rare disease biobank members from 9 European countries (France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Slovenia, Spain, United Kingdom and Turkey) as well as Israel and Canada. The EuroBioBank network is the first operating network of biobanks in Europe providing human DNA, cell and tissue samples as a service to the scientific community conducting research on rare diseases. It is the only network dedicated to rare disease research in Europe. It is the biobank network of RD-Connect. Through the Sample Catalogue approximately new 13,000 samples are collected each year and 7,000 samples are distributed in Europe and beyond. Currently the network holds specimens for more than 950 rare diseases.

Qatar Biobank

Target size: over 60,000 participants

Qatar Biobank (QBB), a member of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development is a national population-based platform that was initiated to support the future biomedical research and clinical interventions to improve the health of the population of Qatar. QBB aims to provide vital medical research possible for scientists in Qatar, the region and the world through the collection of samples and information from up to 60,000 participants of Qatari citizens and long-term residents on their health and lifestyles and follow up them for many years.

Estonian Biobank

Size: over 51,535 participants

The cohort size is currently 51,535 gene donors (≥18 years of age), which closely reflects the age, sex and geographical distribution of the Estonian population. Estonians represent 83%, Russians 14%, and other nationalities 3% of all participants. Medical history and current health status is recorded according to ICD-10 codes.