The Increasing Role of Biobanks in Personalized Medicine

Biobanking is one of “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now“- Time Magazine

sascha3 resized 600Biobanks are key to our future. For this reason, in 2009, Time Magazine listed the biobanking as one of the Top 10 ideas changing the world.

Generally speaking, a biobank is defined as a repository that collects and stores biological samples (tissues, blood, etc.) and therefore is potentially a great source of both genetic and clinical data. With all these data on hand, biobanks act as a key driver for next generation biomarker (diagnostics) and drug discovery since, in order to validate the clinical significance of genomic mutations, researchers must analyze large and diverse collections of patient data. Upon discovery of, let’s say, a certain gene that might correlate with the severity of a given condition, researchers can then test new drug candidates that target this mutation. That being said, biobanks have become increasingly important since the discoveries of the Human Genome Project, which led to an explosion in genomic research.

Subsequently, the newest generation of biobanks is evolving with an increased focus on personalized medicine – in addition to providing access to biosamples they also offer access to validated medical records, genomic data and very specific patient demographic information.

Nevertheless, to date the biggest bottleneck in new drug and biomarker development is the availability of high-quality biospecimens that come with the necessary patient information. The NIH Office of Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research states: “There is a considerable and problematic shortage in the availability of high-quality, well-documented biospecimens for R&D.

Although there are many samples available, most of the time supply does not meet demand. Biosamples are of low quality due to wrong processing and/or storage, they lack the necessary associated medical and demographic information, or they just cannot be used for certain R&D projects since patients weren’t consented the right way.

As the trend towards personalized medicine increases, these issues must be addressed urgently in order to enable advances in research and patient care.


Sascha Hasan is the Chief Scientific Officer at Sanguine Biosciences.  He received his PhD in Pharmacology at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine.  His research interests include neuroscience, stem cell research, and cancer research.

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