How many biobanks and samples do you have in your national network?
As an organisation, we have no biobanks or hold any samples. Our Tissue Directory, however, has 191 registered sample resources (we use this as a generic term to encompasses biobanks, cohorts, clinical trials; etc.) with 454 different sample collections. We estimate that this adds up to… a lot of samples!
How many partners are involved in BBMRI.uk?
The operations of the Node is managed by a partnership between the University of Nottingham and University College London. The Node is independent of any individual biobank and therefore all biobanks who register can also be registered in the BBMRI Directory.
Funding: Our core funding is provided by a consortium of UK medical research funders, until the end of 2020.[i]
What is the particular or specific strength of BBMRI.uk biobanking activities?
We do not actually do any biobanking activities! This might sound unusual for a biobanking national node, but it’s because we already have plenty of sample resources in the UK who can collect samples. We are a supportive infrastructure focused on ensuring researchers can find existing samples before more are collected. As we provide services to the biobanking community, we believe it is important we do not, in any way, become a competitor to the community we are here to support – i.e. by collecting ourselves.
As a result, we work in collaboration with the biobanking community to understand the full range of stakeholders, their needs and challenges, and what solutions we can deliver. Therefore, one specific strength of BBMRI.uk is our engagement with all different types of stakeholders in the biobanking environment.
These efforts cumulate in our own annual conference to bring current issues and solutions related to biobanking to the UK community. This year we will be holding it on 27 November in London near Borough Market.
Tell us more about your engagement in the field of researchers!
One of our key pieces of work currently is identifying how we can better serve the researcher community. Our Tissue Directory is the only of its kind in the UK, but we are aware it is still in development and not yet perfect. Our focus on researchers’ experience in accessing samples, and also in using our Directory, will provide useful intelligence on how we can improve and facilitate high impact research.
One example of this is a result from the recent survey we conducted with UK Biomedical researchers. We found that locating samples was voted the biggest barrier to accessing samples among researchers in the private sector. To tackle this, we are collaborating with the medicines discovery catapult to support SMEs in accessing samples for their research. This work will include modifying the existing Tissue Directory to include information that has been rated as important by industry users.
In your view, what is the next challenge for BBMRI-ERIC in general and of BBMRI.uk in particular?
The challenge has, and will, remain the ability to provide services that assist researchers (academic and commercial) in finding suitable samples. That must be done without alienating the biobanking community and without adding unnecessary burden onto the sample resources’ existing workloads. Such a balance is vital, and demonstrates the importance of our focus on engagement, to ensure we can react to the always changing needs and direction of medical research.
What in your opinion can be achieved through BBMRI-ERIC that cannot be achieved otherwise?
BBMRI-ERIC offers the potential to provide a research infrastructure that is unrivalled in scale as the ability to connect to biobanks and researchers across the EU has immense value. Samples and data should be used by the best researchers and as BBMRI-ERIC develops services for researchers to discover samples across-borders, the potential to find a cure for multiple diseases that is held within the collected samples be unlocked.
UKCRC Tissue Directory and Coordination Centre
c/o Research Department of Nanotechnology
Division of Surgery & Interventional Science
Faculty of Medical Sciences
University College London
Royal Free Campus
Rowland Hill Street
London NW3 2PF
Director: Dr Phil Quinlan
Collaborations Engagement Manager: Jessica Mai Sims
Research Engagement Manager: Emma Lawrence
Senior Research Developer: Matt Styles
You can find out more about the team of BBMRI.uk here!
[i] These funders are members of the UK Clinical Research Collaboration and include: Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, National Institute for Health Research, Wellcome Trust, British Heart Foundation, the Scottish Government’s Chief Scientist Office, Health and Care Research Wales, and Northern Ireland’s Public Health Agency.
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