Have you wondered where to get samples of human origin combined with the clinical data from the specialized hospital care for your research? Would you like to have samples or clinical data based on a specific genetic profile of the donor? Would you like to organize a prospective collection of diagnostic leftover samples for a patient group that has received a specific treatment? Biobank may be the answer to your questions.
The key idea of biobanks is to collect, store and deliver the samples and the related data so that the study-specific sample collections or consents are not needed but the samples for the research can be found readily available from biobank. The collections of the biobanks are based on the biobank consent that is a broad consent that can be withdrawn at any time. With the consent, the diagnostic leftover samples can be stored to the biobank and one additional blood sample per individual can be collected. In Finland, the Finnish Biobank Act applies only to human samples.
Auria Biobank is the oldest biobank in Finland with an operating license since 2014. Auria operates in the hospital districts of Southwest Finland, Satakunta and Vaasa and is owned by these hospital districts and the University of Turku. At the moment, 122 000 people have given a consent for Auria which corresponds 14% of the citizens living within the area, and the proportion is higher among those with regular visits to specialized health care. The studies that use materials from the biobank are required to advance the health of the public, and access to the material requires a scientific research plan and a statement of approval from Auria Biobank’s Scientific Steering Committee.
The main sample groups in the Auria’s collection are blood samples and samples from solid tumours. The biggest collection of Auria are the formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue samples that have been collected at Turku University Hospital since 1930. Another large collection are the EDTA blood samples including whole blood, plasma, buffy coat or DNA samples from 60 000 persons. After completion of a biobank study, researchers are required to provide the sample-specific, analyzed information to the biobank from where it can be assigned for other research purposes in the future. This far the biggest received dataset from the previous studies is genomic variant data of 34 000 persons from FinnGen study that has been generated using GWAS (genome-wide association study) genotyping and the collection is on-going. All available sample collections can be explored from https://www.auria.fi/biopankki/en/tutkijoille/ .
The samples get their value from combining them with the clinical data. For example, diagnoses, medications, laboratory tests, operations and procedures, hospital visits, radiation treatments, medical imaging results and other clinical history of the patient can be combined with the sample from the hospital registers. The samples and the related data are pseudonymized before the delivery to the research project to ensure the privacy of the sample donor.
The laboratory of Auria Biobank stores and processes high-quality samples. For example, tissue microarrays can be produced from FFPE samples or digital images of the slides can be provided. The collection of new samples can also be arranged with Auria Biobank in co-operation with hospital and medical staff. Patients who have given a separate consent for being contacted may be re-contacted for discussing their willingness to provide more samples or to participate in research that is not covered by the biobank consent. Auria Biobank also provides different data analysis services and develops new tools for clinical data, based on, for example, text-mining.
If you are planning a study you can start by visiting Auria’s web page (https://www.auria.fi/biopankki/en/) and by contacting Auria via email: info(at)auria.fi. Typically the number and applicability of available samples are first investigated based on a Feasibility Request before the final Access Request. Researchers are helped in the application process that includes the scientific evaluation of the sample request by the Scientific Steering Committee of Auria Biobank. The past and on-going biobank studies can be explored from https://www.auria.fi/biopankki/en/biopankkitutkimukset/.