Defining biobank

Biopreserv Biobank. 2013 Oct;11(5):309-15. doi: 10.1089/bio.2013.0042. Epub 2013 Oct 8.


The term "biobank" first appeared in the scientific literature in 1996 and for the next five years was used mainly to describe human population-based biobanks. In recent years, the term has been used in a more general sense and there are currently many different definitions to be found in reports, guidelines and regulatory documents. Some definitions are general, including all types of biological sample collection facilities. Others are specific and limited to collections of human samples, sometimes just to population-based collections. In order to help resolve the confusion on this matter, we conducted a survey of the opinions of people involved in managing sample collections of all types. This survey was conducted using an online questionnaire that attracted 303 responses. The results show that there is consensus that the term biobank may be applied to biological collections of human, animal, plant or microbial samples; and that the term biobank should only be applied to sample collections with associated sample data, and to collections that are managed according to professional standards. There was no consensus on whether a collection's purpose, size or level of access should determine whether it is called a biobank. Putting these findings into perspective, we argue that a general, broad definition of biobank is here to stay, and that attention should now focus on the need for a universally-accepted, systematic classification of the different biobank types.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Specimen Banks / classification*
  • Data Collection / standards
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Specimen Handling / methods*
  • Specimen Handling / standards*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires