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Getting the message about biobanking: returning to the basics

Authors Catchpoole DR

Received 2 November 2016

Accepted for publication 6 December 2016

Published 16 January 2017 Volume 2017:5 Pages 9—21


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Martin H. Bluth

Daniel R Catchpoole

The Tumour Bank, The Children’s Cancer Research Unit, The Kids Research Institute, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Westmead, NSW, Australia

Much has been written about biobanks and biobanking. Since biobanking rose to prominence in the 1990s and became a scientific discipline in its own right, the collection and distribution of human tissue samples or “biospecimens” has been the subject of much critique, debate, and assessment. However, what is the message these discussions provide the wider research community? Are they reflective of progression of a new discipline? Do they represent clarity in the field or confusion? At one point we are told that biobanks are vital infrastructure, yet in the next breath we are told that biobanks are complex, full of risk, inefficient, and unsustainable. Biobanks struggle to receive sustainable funding with many restructuring or closing down, producing dilemmas about what to do with the legacy resources. This review critiques five key messages being relayed by the biobanking community, identifying the five messages that are actually being received by the research community. It also presents a “back to basics” view for biobanking that will return our attention back to five fundamental principles that should guide the ongoing discussion. This includes that biobanking is about the active provision of tissue for research that is vital for improved health outcomes. This activity is founded in human inter-relationships, is already performed routinely within hospitals, and is driven by the opportunity to learn from the information contained within the biospecimens. The examples provided will be drawn from New South Wales, Australia, where building a state-wide biobanking infrastructure has been implemented, and which highlight areas where back to basics approach will be beneficial. A back to basics view of biobanking will highlight that the current positions proposed to deal with these issues are mere “straw men” solutions and that the need for a fundamental shift in our thinking is the real issue that needs to be addressed.

Keywords: fundamentals, translational research, exceptionalism, bio-objectification, ethics, information

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