Importance of Cooperation Between Academic Biobanks and Biomedical Industry for Accelerating Personalized Medicine

Credit: Medical University of Bialystok
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Biological material and comprehensive data are referred as the fundamental resource for the progress in life science research, development of novel biotechnology methods along with investigations focused on new therapies. In this field, biobanks play a crucial role through collection, preparation, and storage of high-quality biospecimens under strictly controlled conditions.

Since the most frequent affiliation of a biobank is within an academic institution1, the platforms for networking, sharing the knowledge, and interdisciplinary cooperation between biobankers and biomedical companies are in high demand to find the common ground of understanding. Biobanks have to align their actions to the needs of potential users, like biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies that are dependent on standardized sets of biospecimens for high-throughput assays. Such cooperation between biobanks and biomedical industry should be supoorted in all phases of process development, from basis studies to the clinical application of novel therapies and diagnostic procedures.

Providing highly standardized collections along with related data is the fundamental biobanking activity necessary to meet the demands of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. Development of personalized medicine strongly depends on biospecimens with strictly monitored life cycle to control pre-analytical variables. In biobanks, such pre-analytical factors are determined by the time of cold ischemia, preservation methods, storage conditions and the stability of freeze and thaw cycles2. Therefore, biobankers put extensive efforts for implementation the Quality Management Systems to reduce the incidence of non-reproducible or inaccurate study results produced with the use of insufficiently characterized biospecimens.

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Biobanks that are managing the biospecimens collections along with all necessary activities, like consenting, data acquisition, determination of the sample quality along with standardized documentation, recommend themselves as reliable cooperation partners3.

Cooperation between academic biobanks and biomedical industry typically includes projects in which biobanks provide the biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies with biospecimens and comprehensive data already collected under defined conditions, and projects when biobanks are responsible for sample logistics, like it is performed in the course of clinical trials4.

Partnership among biobanks and industry is widely recognized for its significant potential for use of biospecimens and data in the research oriented on development of novel therapies, introducing innovative preventive and diagnostic methods. Such cooperation can also provide direct benefits to academic biobanks through transmitting the results and data generated by the industry partner for enrichment of academic databases. This data sets are priceless in further studies for building comprehensive databases combining clinical, social, and research data. Moreover, cooperation between academic biobanks and biomedical industry may result in more direct advantages, like contribution in biobanks sustainability through external source of funding, joint publications prepared on the basis of conducted projects, along with mutual exchange of experience and knowledge. And, in the era of globalization and Social Media, projects between biobanks and industry partners have the potential to improve the visibility and importance of academic biobanks.

Academic biobanks, as the reliable source of biospecimens and data for biomedical companies, should also be aware of the legal and ethical aspects of cooperation and transfer of samples. Prior to transfer of samples and related data to industry partners, biobanks should obtain a proposal with project description presenting the intended application of requested biospecimens along with data. Furthermore, such protocol has to be submitted for consideration, comment, guidance and approval of medical ethics committee before the project begins.

It is clear that cooperation between biobanks and industry is fundamental for the development of science and medicine and deserves support. Through the extensive growth of biobanks resources, it was possible to develop high-throughput research methods, like genomics, transcriptomics, metabolomics, and proteomics, supporting better understanding of the pathogenesis of multiple diseases5. Such progress in improvement and enlargement of multi-omics platforms, molecular imaging along with availability of novel bioinformatic tools makes a foundation toward personalized medicine.

The partnership between academic biobanks and industry should be widely recognized for contribution in facilitating the precision medicine approach into clinical environment through providing high quality biospecimens and data for research activities. Networking and direct dialogue among biobankers and industry representatives allow recognizing the needs of both sides and find the common ground for cooperation. Nationally and internationally available biospecimens collected under standardized conditions pose a recommended source for biomedical research with respect to local ethical and legal regulations.

Recently, biobanking was recognized as a multidisciplinary field, where cooperation between clinical specialists, biobankers, pathologists, laboratory members, imaging specialists, along with bioinformaticians, information technology specialists is the foundation of the complex mechanisms of biobank expansion and operational functioning.

Biobanks, as the integral element serving towards development of personalized medicine, should put emphasis on harmonization and standardization of procedures, implementation of Common Data Elements, and improvement of best practices for collecting data and processing samples to meet the needs of current research questions.


  1. Henderson GE, Cadigan RJ, Edwards TP, Conlon I, Nelson AG, Evans JP, Davis AM, Zimmer C, Weiner BJ. Characterizing biobank organizations in the U.S.: results from a national survey. Genome Med. 2013 Jan 25;5(1):3. doi: 10.1186/gm407. PMID: 23351549; PMCID: PMC3706795
  2. Riondino S, Ferroni P, Spila A, Alessandroni J, D’Alessandro R, Formica V, Della-Morte D, Palmirotta R, Nanni U, Roselli M, Guadagni F. Ensuring Sample Quality for Biomarker Discovery Studies – Use of ICT Tools to Trace Biosample Life-cycle. Cancer Genomics Proteomics. 2015 Nov-Dec;12(6):291-9. PMID: 26543078
  3. Caulfield T, Borry P, Gottweis H. Industry involvement in publicly funded biobanks. Nat Rev Genet. 2014 Apr;15(4):220. doi: 10.1038/nrg3704. PMID: 24772494
  4. Baber R, Hummel M, Jahns R, von Jagwitz-Biegnitz M, Kirsten R, Klingler C, Nussbeck SY, Specht C. Position Statement from the German Biobank Alliance on the Cooperation Between Academic Biobanks and Industry Partners. Biopreserv Biobank. 2019 Aug;17(4):372-374. doi: 10.1089/bio.2019.0042. Epub 2019 Jul 17. PMID: 31314575; PMCID: PMC6703240
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  6. Kinkorová J. Education for future biobankers – The state-of-the-art and outlook. EPMA J. 2021 Mar 10;12(1):1-11. doi: 10.1007/s13167-021-00234-5. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33717371; PMCID: PMC7943331

Anna Michalska-Falkowska, PhD is a clinical pharmacist working as the Biobanking Specialist in the Department of Clinical Molecular Biology at Medical University of Bialystok, Poland and as Clinical Data Manager and Head of Polish Clinical Team at Indivumed GmbH, Hamburg, Germany. Currently she is studying for a Master of Science in Biobanking at the Medical University of Graz, Austria. Expert volunteer in clinical pharmacy and biobanking in several non-governmental organizations: THORAX Foundation, Initiatives for Society Foundation, Human Milk Bank Foundation. Her professional interests include holistic approach to Biobanking and research with integrated quality assurance on biospecimens together with comprehensive clinical and omics data.