Biobanks are of growing importance to a number of organizations in biotechnology, the pharmaceutical industry and medical research due to the increased awareness of their power to answer pertinent research questions. The higher the quality of the biobank the more accurate or fine grained the studies based on them can be. This requires excellent management of a diverse array of samples such as blood, tissue, saliva, DNA, integration with electronic medical/ health records (EMR/ EHR) and compliance with the relevant regulatory environment such as HTA, GCLP, MHRA, FDA 21 CFR Part 11 and other similar requirements. Complete sample inventory in real time is essential including tracking aliquots, pooled samples and samples processed for experiments and subsequently stored. Other requirements often include logistics management and monitoring the cold chain. Large biobanks may also require cloud-based solutions in order to accommodate the information storage requirements, especially those based at multiple sites.
Most modern laboratory information management systems (Lab management software) have features or add-ons to facilitate biobanking. Here we highlight a selection of the top LIMS for biobanking. Preference has been given to interoperable systems. Purchasers should make their own investigations and bear in mind that these rankings are not recommendations.
1. Modul-Bio – MBioLIMS BioBanking®
A modular software solution specifically designed for biobanks, cohorts and biological resource centres to manage the entire lifecycle of samples and their data. Features include:
- Traceability of biospecimens from reception to shipment
- Process tracking: aliquoting, transformation, storage, analysis
- Genealogy of samples
- Modular software and customizable
- Powerful search function, reporting and statistical tools.
- Available for a single or multiple sites.
- Follows best regulatory practice guidelines
Pros: A key advantage is the customisation that is possible through purchasing specific modules according to the needs of the biobank. It is interoperable and may be able to integrate with EMR/ EHR records. The eMBioBANK® module allows users to publish and share sample collections on the web in a fully regulatory compliant manner. This would be a great solution for hospitals to distribute their samples to researchers.
Cons: While a modular format offers great advantages for customisation, some biobanks may prefer to have a comprehensive software package with idle features that they may instantiate at a later date without the need to select modules.
2. Labvantage 8
LabVantage 8 is a complete LIMS solution with full capacity for biobanking. The LabVantage biobanking LIMS includes visualization, consent management, specimen accessioning, request management, and a genealogy viewer; hierarchical visualization of specimen storage, digitized consent forms linked to biospecimens, recorded specimen and subject information, standardized terminology, ability to search the specimen collections and clinical data, view a biospecimen’s aliquots, derivatives and pooled samples. Features include:
- A centralized system to store richly annotated specimen data across multiple physical banks
- Full sample tracking and chain of custody
- Fully searchable database that can be ported such that customers can search the biobank for the required specimens
- Data security and regulatory compliance capabilities
- Interfaces with enterprise electronic medical/ health records (EMR/ EHR) systems
- Study management
- Sample genealogy
- Patient consent tracking
- Manage collection kits
- Standard inventory management
- Data security and compliance
- Biospecimen annotation
- Requests & distribution
- Chain of custody
- Compatible with cloud computing
Pros: A key advantage of LabVantage is its ability to integrate with EMR/ EHR databases. This is a crucial feature for drug discovery and population health projects. Combined with the ability to manage multiple sites within LabVantage and the possibility to operate within the cloud make it an ideal solution for very large population health studies and biorepository facilities with multiple sites.
Cons: Those with more streamlined requirements such as an academic biobank for a single disease condition may not require all the capabilities of the software.
3. Genohm SLIMS for Biobanks
SLIMS integrates a LIMS, an Electronic Laboratory Notebook, and a Biobanking module. The main key features of SLIMS for Biobanking are:
- Quick and easy overview of sample entries, storage locations, sample status, sample workflow
- Highly configurable sample annotation
- Genetic sample relations with pedigree report
- Macros for automation
- Data validation options
- Full scale chain of custody
- Secure, 21CFR 11 compliant
- Searchable with customized exports, and reports
- Possible to Integrate with freezer management systems, instruments, and hospital EMR systems
- Highly adaptable environment, compatible with the cloud
Pros: Genohm SLIMS for Biobanks can integrate with EMR/ EHRs and is highly customizable. Again, this is very useful for large biorepositories and population health studies with complex requirements.
Cons: Smaller biobanks may want to consider more streamlined options.
4. TDBioBank by TECHNIDATA
TDBioBank is dedicated to biobanking, and specimen management for organizations that track and add value to their stored biological specimens. TDBioBank can manage collections of tissue, blood products, DNA, RNA, cells, and others. Features include:
- Biological specimen management
- Consent management
- Non-conformity management
- Biological resource history (donor, collection, samples, aliquots, derivatives,)
- Storage and request management
- Added value for specimen collections
- Follow-up for sample requests
- Production of customized or standard catalogs
- Annotation of collections, with possible links to patient files (clinical, genetic, genealogical, morphological, and so on)
- Family dimension: pedigree tree editor, family number
- Interface with the Hospital Information System (HIS)
- Interface with the Laboratory Information System (LIS)
- Interface with temperature monitoring systems
- Configurable, interoperable, and evolving solution
- Data import tool
- Requests, data exports, reports
Pros: Dedicated to biobanking, addressing the needs of single or multisite biobanks, through a web-based platform. Good interoperability, potentially with EHR/EMR.
Cons: TDBioBank is comprehensive of larger organisations, however smaller biobank operations may prefer an more streamlined option.
5. BiobankPro – Brooks
BiobankPro is structured for specimen processing, integrated data, and reporting, with the flexibility of a LIMS. Features include:
- Inventory storage and optimization
- Customizable biobanking & research LIMS workflows
- Specimen registration/ lineage
- Collection kits
- Specimen storage check in/out, aliquoting, derivatives, pooling, destruction
- Specimen processing worksheets
- Batch processing documentation
- Built-in electronic laboratory notebook module
- Chain of custody
- Subject management
- Patient consent management
- Study management
- Configurable alerts with e-mails
- Client portal
- Sample requests, specimen shipments
- Testing & assay management
- Instrument & reagent management
- Charts & dashboards
- Tabular report printing
- Complex report designer
- Advanced data mining, ad-hoc and canned queries
- Comprehensive barcode label and RFID tag designer
- Barcode label printing
- RFID tracking compatible
- Integration with external data sources
- Process automation based on external data sources (CTMS, EMR, EDC)
- Limfinity® brick compatibility
- Audit trail
- Role-based security
- Regulatory compliance
Pros: A comprehensive dedicated biobank solution which will be ideal for those that want an out of the box solution with possible EMR/ EHR input.
Cons: Limited ability to customise the software itself by the end user.
6. Core Informatics part of Thermo Fisher Scientific
Core Informatics is a comprehensive LIMS App based platform with clear comparisons to Modul-Bio’s solution, although it appears less focussed on biobanking and storage per se with many genomics and Biopharmaceutical modules. The biobanking apps include clinical study management, however it is unclear whether this allows interfacing with EMR/ EHR data. Apps for biobanking include:
- Clinical study management
- Preclinical study management
- Nucleic acid extraction
- Whole blood fractionation
- Assay request management
- Specimen inventory management
- Specimen shipment management
- Specimen shipment collaborator portal
- Specimen request management
- Biobank operations management
Pros: a comprehensive customisable LIMS solution with many Biobanking modules.
Cons: Purchasers need to weigh up whether a comprehensive non-modular system would be more economical in the long run.
An open source informatics platform for biobanking. This means the software is free and the source code is available for modification. The company charges for the installation and maintenance of the software. Features include:
- User and role management
- Reporting, specimen carts and dashboarding
- inventory management
- Custom forms and fields
- Biospecimen collection
- Multi-site longitudinal study
- Disease based or left-over samples collections
- Consent tracking
- Configurable User Interface
- Label generation and printing
- Distributing specimens to researchers
- Shipping specimens to offsite storage locations
- Importing bulk data (CSV)
Pros: A great solution for biobanks with a professional IT team that see an advantage to complete control over the biobanking software with an ability to modify it themselves. Many customers choose to have OpenSpecimen install, support and maintain the software for a charge.
Cons: any software source code modification by the biobank staff will render the software unsupported.
8. STARLIMS by Abbott
STARLIMS is designed to handle complex processes, support regulatory compliance, and promote collaboration. It is a comprehensive LIMS with a biobanking specification. Importantly STARLIMS is interoperable meaning it may be able to interface with EMR and EHR records. It can interface with enterprise systems, such as SAP, Empower, and Chromeleon, in addition to integrating with internal business-specific software. Biobanking features include:
- Sample management
- Storage container management
- Storage location management
- Shipping and receiving
- Workflow management
- Biobank database search – QBE (Query By Example)
- Inventory settings
- Clinical trials
- Project management
- Materials manager / test manager
- Cross functional
Pros: comprehensive LIMS and interoperable with many other platforms. Industry focused.
Cons: May be more than hospitals and universities need. Although interoperable it is not clear whether it is possible to interface with EMR/ EHR databases.
A fully cloud solution for biobanking. Features include:
- Sample Tracking
- Chain of Custody
- Study Management
- Test Management
- Laboratory Requisitions
- Package & Shipment
- Lab Inventory Management
- Data Security and Compliance
- Data Retrieval & Traceability
- Report Generation
- Audit Trail
Pros: The cloud means the software has very small IT infrastructure requirements, ideal for biobanks without a dedicated IT team.
Cons: May not be interoperable with hospital records.
10. Biological Specimen Inventory (BSI) System
BSI is a powerful software system for biospecimen management that can be customized. BSI provides specimen, freezer, shipment, and workflow management in a validated secure software environment. Features include:
- Data Entry
- Collection Kits
- BSI Connect
- BSI Hub
Pros: Straightforward system that allows one to manage a biorepository effectively. Possible to integrate with other systems via API (command line).
Cons: In the opinion of the author the system is geared towards tracking and distribution, rather than analysis. That said BSI is certainly extremely analytically capable as well.