Denmark, Lithuania and Switzerland Strengthen Biobanking Research Infrastructure in Europe

Denmark, Lithuania and Switzerland Strengthen Biobanking Research Infrastructure in Europe
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BBMRI-ERICDenmark, Lithuania and Switzerland have been officially confirmed as members of the Biobanking and BioMolecular resources Research Infrastructure – European Research Infrastructure Consortium (BBMRI-ERIC). Lithuania and Switzerland moved from Observers to full Members and Denmark joined as an Observer.

Membership was approved by the BBMRI-ERIC Assembly of Members in June 2023 with membership status officially commencing from July.

BBMRI-ERIC’s Director General, Prof. Jens Habermann said:

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“It is with great enthusiasm that we welcome Lithuania and Switzerland to step up from Observer to full Member and hereby continue our successful close collaborations within the biobanking landscape across Europe and beyond.

“We are also delighted to welcome Denmark as a new member state joining BBMRI-ERIC as Observer. The well developed and structured biobanking community in Denmark will be a great complementary asset to our community.

“The continued growth of BBMRI-ERIC will further expedite our mission to facilitate access to high quality samples, data and biomolecular resources for scientific advancements in health and life sciences.”

Denmark Profile

Denmark will be represented in the Assembly of Members by the Ministry of the Interior and Health and the Danish National Biobank at Statens Serum Institut. Denmark is in the process of appointing a National Node Director.

In addition to the large national and regional biobanks, there are more than 200 local biobanks at Danish hospitals and universities. These are mostly research biobanks established as part of a specific research project. They will all have the opportunity to join the collaboration.

The main purpose of the Danish National Biobank (hosted at Statens Serum Institut) is to give scientists from Denmark and abroad an overview of, and access to, biological samples in both existing and future collections.

This work is expanded by collaboration with other major Danish biobanks in the Danish Biobank Register (“Det Nationale Biobankregister”), a national cooperation in which large biobanks based at hospitals, universities and other research institutions in Denmark regularly submit data to the Register.

“Det Nationale Biobankregister” is a registry of samples and data from 12 biobanks and is open for all Danish biobanks to join. Some samples are almost 50 years old, and all can be linked with data from a host of national registries. This biobank data can be linked to disease codes and demographic information from national administrative registers on an individual level.  Aggregated results about the available biological material are displayed to researchers around the world through a web-based search system, to date containing information on 27.4 million biological samples from 5.9 million Danes.

Anne Marie Vangsted, Executive Vice President at Statens Serum Institut, explained why this country and infrastructure partnership matters:

“There is already a great deal of shared goals and opportunities for mutually beneficial collaborations and synergies between the Danish biobanking and research landscape and BBMRI-ERIC. Denmark is at the forefront of epidemiological research.

“Biobanks in Denmark have access to unparalleled longitudinal health data, making them unique in the world as a platform for health research, innovation, disease prevention and treatment.”

Lithuania Profile

Lithuania is represented in the Assembly of Members by the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport. The Ministry additionally delegated representation to the National Cancer Institute. Daiva Dabkevičienė, Head of the Biobank of the National Cancer Institute, is designated as the National Node Coordinator. Lithuania joined BBMRI-ERIC as an Observer in April 2020.

The National Node of Lithuania includes six partners: The National Cancer Institute, Vilnius University Hospital Santaros Clinics, Vilnius University, Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, Hospital of Lithuanian University of Health Sciences Kaunas Clinics and Centre for Innovative Medicine. Biobanks provide Lithuanian and international science access to human biological samples and related health information resources, enabling large-scale population-based, translational medicine research on common and rare diseases.

Dr. Daiva Dabkevičienė described the value of full membership for Lithuania:

“On behalf of the National Cancer Institute and partners, we asked the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports of the Republic of Lithuania to apply to the BBMRI-ERIC network to become a full member, as national membership is part of the national policy of progress.

“Establishing a national biobanking infrastructure and its participation in BBMRI-ERIC is of great importance for the further advancement of life sciences and health and medical sciences in Lithuania. Becoming a full member provides access to the infrastructure’s international research projects, multinational large-scale collaborations, and to BBMRI’s international online directories.

It is also intended that the membership of BBMRI-ERIC infrastructure will give an opportunity to closely integrate Lithuania’s national biobanking infrastructure with biobanks in European countries.”

Switzerland Profile

Switzerland is represented in the Assembly of Members by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). Dr. Christine Currat, the Executive Director of the Swiss Biobanking Platform (SBP), is the National Node Coordinator. Switzerland had been a BBMRI-ERIC Observer country since December 2015.

As the Swiss node of BBMRI-ERIC, and key intermediary between Swiss human and non-human biobanks and the European network, SBP is the leading national research infrastructure for biobanking activities with 84 biobanks and infrastructures in the network. SBP is an initiative of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), which responds to the increasing needs of researchers in biomedical and biological sciences in terms of quality, access, transparency and interconnectedness of biobanks for research purposes. SBP’s vision is to foster research by facilitating access and optimal usage to high-quality and harmonised samples and sample related data. SBP’s mission is to create a network of biobanks promoting FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable) samples.

SBP has been very active in the BBMRI-ERIC Quality working group, as well as in the development of the Federated Search Platform at European level. Full membership enables the Swiss Node to achieve several aims: To reinforce Switzerland’s position in the biobanking field and be better recognised by international stakeholders, to contribute to and strengthen the BBMRI-ERIC biobanking landscape alongside collaborating more actively in the IT, ELSI, Quality and Task Forces, and to facilitate integration of partners in European projects.

Delighted by the news, Dr. Christine Currat, SBP, said:

We are very pleased that Switzerland is now a full member of the BBMRI-ERIC infrastructure and look forward to continuing to work closely together over the long term.

This membership demonstrates a deep mutual commitment to developing and promoting our biobanking community as well as enabling researchers to actively participate in infrastructure networks on an equal footing.”

BBMRI-ERIC, established in 2013 under EU legislation, serves as a platform for collaboration among researchers, biobankers, industry stakeholders, and patients. Headquartered in Graz, Austria, BBMRI-ERIC provides support and services to local biobanks through National Nodes across participating countries. Its services encompass ethical, legal, and societal issues, quality management, IT solutions for online collection search and access requests, as well as biobanking development. BBMRI-ERIC actively participates in EU-funded projects focused on health and life sciences research and innovation. With its expanding membership, BBMRI-ERIC is poised to accelerate its mission of facilitating access to high-quality samples, data, and biomolecular resources to drive scientific advancements.