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Biobanks: Hidden treasures in different places

Human biobanks are treasure troves for medical research. Although the majority of these repositories were set up with public funds, up until now they have only allowed external researchers limited access to information and samples. This will change from 22nd November 2010 when the first six German biobanks hold their inaugural meeting in Berlin to discuss and organise the establishment of the “German Biobank Registry Project Portal”. In cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering (IBMT) and TMF – Technology, Methods and Infrastructure for Networked Medical Research - the six biobanks, including two from Baden-Württemberg (Ulm and Mannheim), will lay the foundations for a central German biobank infrastructure.

The Project Portal, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), will shortly start providing access to all large biobanks for external research projects that are registered in the German Biobank TMF Registry (see link "German Biobank Registry").

German Biobank Registry Project Portal

The following biobanks are involved in establishing the project portal:

Name of biobank (focus, university location)
BioPsy (neuropsychiatric diseases, Mannheim)
CNHF (cardiac insufficiency, Berlin)
Komp-Net HIV/AIDS (HIV/AIDS, Bochum)
Paediatric Diabetes Biobank (diabetes in children, Ulm)
SepNet Biobank (sepsis, Jena)
SHIP (epidemiologic health study, Greifswald)

Each of these six biobanks stores thousands of samples and datasets from patients suffering from neuropsychiatric diseases, HIV/AIDS, cardiac insufficiency, diabetes and sepsis as well as information on 4000 volunteers and thousands of samples from the epidemiological health study "Study of Health in Pomerania" (SHIP). Dr. Christina Schröder, project leader: "We are creating an infrastructure that will provide researchers across Germany with access to a broad range of human biobanks in Germany and an Internet-based central database that includes information from disease-specific and population genetics databases, as well as two clinical biobanks like the ones that have been working with CRIP since 2006."

Infrastructures such as the new TMF and CRIP Project Portal are catalysers of medical research: the data and samples required for a specific project can be accessed much more quickly than before. The material stored in biobanks is used more effectively with the aim of turning basic research results into bedside treatment more quickly. The infrastructure offers an ethically and legally safe basis for the handling of patient samples and data, which has been made possible by many years of preliminary research at TMF and IBMT, including projects such as the TMF's Generic Data Protection Concept" and the IBMT's "CRIP Privacy Regime". CRIP and the new Project Portal exclusively process anonymous data.

"Along with the know-how offered by the CRIP partners in Germany, TMF and Fraunhofer IBMT provide an excellent basis for allowing public access to existing, valuable biobank resources without putting the confidentiality of our patients or our scientific work at risk," said Prof. Norbert Brockmeyer (TMF chairman, HIV/AIDS competence network) explaining the scientists' confidence in the new infrastructure.


TMF - Technologie- und Methodenplattform für die vernetzte medizinische Forschung e.V. (TMF - Technology, Methods and Infrastructure for Networked Medical Research) is the umbrella organisation for networked medical research in Germany. TMF products and services include the preparation of expert opinions, generic concepts, IT applications, training and consulting services that are free of charge to the research community. TMF is currently setting up the "German Biobank Registry" with the financial support of the German BMBF.

Fraunhofer IBMT

The Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT is the international leader in the development of technologies for the cryoconservation of biological materials and the establishment of large cryobanks, as well as acting as partner and service provider for numerous biological repositories, including CRIP.  The Fraunhofer IBMT's "Biological Databases" group is in charge of and provides IT expertise to the CRIP databases. Dr. Christina Schröder (phone: +49 (0)331/58187-227, e-mail: christina.schroeder(at)ibmt.fraunhofer.de) is contact person for the topic biobanks.

About CRIP

The "Central Research Infrastructure for Molecular Pathology" (CRIP) is a central infrastructure for biomedical research involving human tissue repositories and it provides access to the partners' databases and tissue banks for research projects. CRIP partners include: Charité Berlin (Campus Benjamin Franklin and Campus Mitte), Klinikum rechts der Isar/TU Munich, Medical University Graz and the University Hospital in Erlangen.

Website address: https://www.gesundheitsindustrie-bw.de/en/article/press-release/biobanks-hidden-treasures-in-different-places