Vaught (2015) has reviewed the evolution of biobanking best practices. He notes the critical roles of proper planning and infrastructure. These include the roles that quality management; publication standards; ethical, legal, and social issues; information technology (IT); and business and sustainability planning have played in developing research in biobanking.
Biobanking has evolved from collections of biospecimens lacking controlled collection, processing and storage into a field of science unto itself.
Consequently, the need for professional organizations, best practices, and international collaborations involving complex logistics and regulations has grown. In the last decade biobanking has been fundamental to growth in translational and clinical research. Although this is a giant step forward in medical research, it has also led to new issues relating to reporting results to biospecimen donors and incidental findings that require new policies and procedures.
Furthermore, the author discusses the impact of specimen quality as the range of uses for biospecimens grows. Researchers are now looking at preanalytical variables that affect biospecimen quality and development of evidence-based practices to collect samples and standardize collection. Similarly, there are now reporting guidelines, such as BRISQ (Biospecimen Reporting for Improved Study Quality) and SPREC (Standard PREanalytical Code), that researchers are encouraged to follow when publishing articles in biospecimen science. Development of both guidelines was aimed at improving the rigor of reporting biospecimen collection, processing, and storage conditions and other sample-handling details in manuscripts.
While acknowledging the current issues being resolved by the scientific community with regards to biobanking, Vaught also notes that there will be further challenges ahead as biobanking and biospecimen collection continues to grow. The types of samples that researchers are using are evolving. Where once blood, urine and tissue were the only sample types being stored, newer specimen types such as circulating cell-free DNA are becoming more prevalent. For each new biospecimen type, researchers will need to develop evidence-based practices for consistent handling and quality.
In recent years, biobanks have partnered with industry to develop new approaches to collecting, processing and storing biospecimens. Bar coding and automated DNA extraction have contributed to improved sample quality and fewer errors.
Additionally, acquiring consent remains an ongoing debate, particularly with regards to its longevity. The biobanking community is still working toward consensus on informed consent practices, moving toward broad consent for unspecified future use to overcome some of the current issues.
Overall, biobanking has come a long way over the last few decades. As it continues to evolve, the need for ongoing development of evidence-based practices is crucial.
Vaught, J. (2015) “Biobanking comes of age: The transition to biospecimen science,” Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology, 6(56) (pp. 211–228).