Biobank: an investment in future treatments

Kalani Simpson | June 15, 2012

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Security will be tight at the new bank opening on the UNMC campus.

Patients at The Nebraska Medical Center will make deposits voluntarily. Scientists will make withdrawals. Together, they hope the biobank — a large, broad-based collection of biologic samples — will more quickly move breakthroughs in the laboratory into advances in the clinic that can improve the health of Nebraskans.

That would be the greatest return on investment.

The biobank, expected to open by December, will be a tremendous resource for UNMC’s scientists, said Jennifer Larsen, M.D., vice chancellor for research.

DNA and serum withdrawn from the biobank will enable scientists to bridge research between animal models and clinical trials.

“It can serve as preliminary evidence for funding requests for new areas of clinical research and clinical trials,” Dr. Larsen said.

It also can tell the scientists themselves if they are on the right track.

UNMC already has multiple, condition-specific biobanks with samples from people who have consented to help with a certain area of study.

But, the need for a larger resource is vital, Dr. Larsen said, noting the dilemma faced by UNMC’s pancreatic cancer team.

“For five years, they’ve tried to recruit individuals who may be at risk for pancreatic cancer to test new biomarkers of risk and they still haven’t gotten the number of samples they need,” she said.

UNMC’s new biobank could allow multiple investigators to more quickly test these new markers of disease in people with, and without, a particular disease.

Everyone treated at The Nebraska Medical Center and UNMC clinics will have the opportunity to donate leftover blood from blood tests for research instead of having it discarded. Personal information will be removed to protect the confidentiality of the donor. A peer-review committee will monitor the materials’ use.