From the evaluation of existing solutions to an all-inclusive package for biobanks

Health Technol (Berl). 2017;7(1):89-95. doi: 10.1007/s12553-016-0175-x. Epub 2017 Jan 12.


The domain of biobanking has gone through many stages and as a result there are a wide range of commercial and open source software solutions available. The utilization of these software tools requires different levels of domain and technical skills for installation, configuration and ultimate us of these biobank software tools. To compound this complexity the biobanking community are required to work together in order to share knowledge and jointly build solutions to underpin the research infrastructure. We have evaluated the available tools, described them in a catalogue (BiobankApps) and made a selection of tools available to biobanks in a reference toolbox (BIBBOX) that are use-case driven. In the BiobankApps tool catalogue, both commercial and open source software solutions related to the biobanking domain are included, classified and evaluated. The evaluation covers: 1) "user review" by an authenticated user 2) domain expert: quick analysis by BBMRI members and 3) domain expert: detailed analysis and test installation with real world data. The evaluation is paired with a survey across the more "advanced" (from a technology perspective) biobanks to investigate what tools are currently used and summarises known benefits/drawbacks of the respective packages. In the second step we recommend tools for specific use cases, and install, configure and connect these in the BIBBOX framework. This service also builds on the existing work in the United Kingdom in seeking to establish the motivations for different stakeholders to become involved and therefore assisting in prioritising the use-cases based on the level of need and support within the research community. All tools associated to a use-case are available as BIBBOX applications (technically this is achieved by docker containers), which are integrated in the BIBBOX framework with central identification and user management. In future work we plan to share the acquired knowledge with other networks, develop an Application Programmable Interface (API) for the exchange of metadata with other tool catalogues and work on an ontology for the evaluation of biobank software.

Keywords: Biobanks; Open source software; Software evaluation.