The Medical University of Graz, Austria operates a large scale and high-quality biobank to aid research into a wide range of human diseases. Here are five ways Biobank Graz is having a significant impact on modern biobanking:
- Biobank Graz is one of the largest biobanks in Europe. With more than six million (PDF, 1.2MB) biosamples in a variety of formats, Biobank Graz is one of the largest biorepositories in Europe. Biobanked materials include formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue blocks, blood, blood serum and extracted DNA.
- Biobank Graz keeps “left-over” tissue from surgical operations. Patients undergoing surgery or diagnostics at the Graz LKH-University Clinical Centre can opt-in to allow excess biomaterials from their procedures to be added to the biobank. No extra biomaterial is collected, and all personally identifying information is removed from a sample when it is stored. Saving left-over tissue is an effective way for Biobank Graz to grow its collection – after all, more than 500,000 inpatients and outpatients visit the Graz LKH-University Clinical Centre annually. In addition, this cross-sectional collection is important from a research perspective; it represents diseases occurring in the Austrian population at their natural frequencies. The biobank at the University of Kentucky Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) runs a similar left-over biomaterial donation program.
- Biobank Graz maintains several high-quality existing collections. In addition to the cross-sectional collection described above, several disease-focused clinical collections are housed at Biobank Graz. These collections are essential for in-depth research into specific diseases, and they have become the major focus for research institutions cooperating with the biobank. Interestingly, some clinical collections were started decades before Biobank Graz was established. Up until recently, these long-standing collections were maintained by researchers at the Medical University of Graz.
- Repository operations at Biobank Graz are now automated. The handling of body fluids at Biobank Graz is now completely automated. For instance, samples are aliquoted and immediately moved into freezer storage to minimize time spent at room temperature. Then, when a sample needs to be handled, a robot pulls it out of -80°C storage and does all necessary manipulations at -20°C to avoid repetitive freezing and thawing. Automated sample handling allows Biobank Graz to comply with strict Standard Operating Procedures. As a result, the repository received an ISO 9001:2008 certification in 2009.
- Biobank Graz is a leader in international projects and collaborations. Because Biobank Graz aims to be a partner in medical research rather than a passive sample provider, it supports several national and international projects in basic, translational and industrial research. What’s more, researchers at the repository are involved in projects to advance biobanking as a science. These projects include programs designed to study the ethical and social implications of biobanking, to improve sample standardization and storage methods, and to advance IT solutions for biobank databases and visualization of large datasets.
Without question, Biobank Graz has set the bar high for other biobanks. In addition to its broad sample collection, automated handling procedures and extensive collaborations, Biobank Graz has supported numerous publications by providing samples, data and/or logistic services. We’re going to keep our eyes on Biobank Graz; there’s no doubt that it will be an integral part of important developments and research in the future.