Through the Norwegian biobank consortium, to ensure the research core facility and solve major challenges in the biobanking domain, UiT has received an award of almost 20 million NOK from the Research Council. The biobank stores human biological material that has been collected through population surveys and research projects at the UiT Arctic University of Norway.
“Population surveys such as cancer in women, SAMINOR and the Tromsø Survey are one of the most important sources to collect knowledge about the health of the Sami and Norwegian populations. With the help of this award, we can now upgrade the biobanking techniques for future collections”, explained Karina Standahl Olsen, head of the biobank.
Must increase storage capacity
Due to planned collections in the large population surveys, the biobank will need a capacity increase of around 40% over the next 5 years.
This challenge requires an automated storage device that uses our physical space to a much greater extent than today’s infrastructure. Such a device would nearly double our capacity, and enables our population studies to collect biological material in the future, Olsen says.
Nearly 2 million biological samples are stored in the biobank, collected from people in Tromsø and Norway. These samples are unique and constitute UiT’s trove of health research, she continues.
Here we can trace the history of the samples right from the day they were taken while maintaining the identity of the person.
A beacon for future research
The biological samples are very attractive research resources in both a national and international context. The biobank stores blood, urine, saliva, hair, and nails in ultra-low temperature freezers.
The material is used for research on disease mechanisms, and for the discovery of new biomarkers and molecular targets for treatment. The sample collections are an indispensable support for the research we do at the university.
A high-quality biobank is a prerequisite for the population studies at UiT to attract external funding and international project collaboration, Olsen says.
World champions in research infrastructure
The Biobank at UiT is part of a large national network with all major universities, all regional health institutes, the National Institute of Public Health, and the Cancer Registry. The network is described by the Research Council as a “world champion in research infrastructure” and as a key contributor to health research in Norway.
The funds from the Research Council will not only be used for automated storage but also to address other national bottlenecks for health research. This includes the development of research projects and the work on harmonization of the legislative framework for health research and international research collaboration.