One of the first population studies in the Netherlands started in 1965, the Vlagtwedde – Vlaardingen study and the collected data still provides useful information to researchers today, which includes research focusing on the origin of lung diseases. Such innovative approaches require game changers in both thinking and acting which was just as important back in 1965 as it is today. In product life cycle terms these groups of people would be called the ‘innovators’, immediately looking for early adopters that see the overall benefits and take some optimisation challenges for granted.
One of the best examples of an early adopter that saw the bigger picture was when during a BBC interview David Bowie shared his view on the potential the internet would have on society and how it would have a significant impact for “both good and bad, is unimaginable”. The interviewer Jeremy Paxman pushed back saying that “it’s just a tool”. As we all know now, Bowie’s analysis was correct.
Sometimes biobankers must feel the same, seeing something that has high potential for a wider audience that can really impact healthcare for a very wide group of patients, or even prevent certain diseases from happening. But there are still hidden pearls of wisdom in the basements of universities and hospitals.
Fortunately, there is an increasing number of examples of great cooperation between biobanks, researchers and industry that proving cooperation is the way forward. FinnGen, a large biobank study in Finland where electronic health records of 500,000 individuals are combined with their genomics data or the Taiwan Precision Medicine Initiative, where risk prediction models are developed to tailor health management. These are two examples of inspiring leadership that show the added value of having access to high quality samples and associated data, stored under reliable conditions to support predictive genomics initiatives.
To help further expand public-private initiatives, Thermo Fisher Scientific is now also part of the BBMR-ERIC Stakeholder Forum that already has a pillar focusing on patient organisations and is now in the process of building an industry pillar. BBMRI-ERIC is a Research Infrastructure focusing on biobanking in Europe, valuing the industries perspective on how to increase the awareness on needs and expectations on key issues in biobanking.
The innovators have stood up and developed the biobank community to where it is today with the early adopters supporting their efforts. The time is now to start building an ecosystem where the separate initiatives come together and are the basis of a new ecosystem, as also presented during a recent webinar ‘Biobanking and the Future of Precision Medicine’.