The challenge of establishing, growing and sustaining a large biobank: a personal perspective

Clin Biochem. 2014 Mar;47(4-5):239-44. doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiochem.2013.11.017. Epub 2013 Dec 5.


Laboratory medicine professionals have a unique understanding of the wealth that biological samples bring to clinical research, and of the need for quality standards for the collection, transportation, storage and analytical phases. The expertise of laboratory physicians and scientists also adds value to the interpretation and publication of the results of clinical research studies. This is an account of the evolution of over thirty five years of the Biobank/Clinical Research Clinical Trials Laboratory at one Canadian health sciences centre. The logistical, financial, and quality management challenges are presented in growing from a small-scale facility to one that now stores three million well-characterized samples from more than seventy countries, representing five continents and five major ethnic groups. This is an account of a journey, it is not intended as a guide as to how to create an 'ideal' biobank. Collaboration, collegiality, consistency, creativity and clinical collaborators, are the keys to progress, but there must first be a vision, one that can expand to embrace new opportunities.

Keywords: Accreditation; Biobanks; Clinical research; Nitrogen and mechanical freezers; Quality management; Safety.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Biological Specimen Banks / history
  • Biological Specimen Banks / organization & administration*
  • Biomedical Research / history
  • Biomedical Research / organization & administration*
  • Canada
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Cryopreservation*
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Quality Control
  • Specimen Handling / economics
  • Specimen Handling / instrumentation
  • Specimen Handling / standards*