The informatics challenges facing biobanks: a perspective from a United Kingdom biobanking network

Philip R. Quinlan (Lead / Corresponding author), Martin Groves, Lee B. Jordan, Hilary Stobart, Colin A. Purdie, Alastair M. Thompson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    17 Citations (Scopus)
    185 Downloads (Pure)


    The challenges facing biobanks are changing from simple collections of materials to quality-assured fit-for-purpose clinically annotated samples. As a result, informatics awareness and capabilities of a biobank are now intrinsically related to quality. A biobank may be considered a data repository, in the form of raw data (the unprocessed samples), data surrounding the samples (processing and storage conditions), supplementary data (such as clinical annotations), and an increasing ethical requirement for biobanks to have a mechanism for researchers to return their data. The informatics capabilities of a biobank are no longer simply knowing sample locations; instead the capabilities will become a distinguishing factor in the ability of a biobank to provide appropriate samples. There is an increasing requirement for biobanking systems (whether in-house or commercially sourced) to ensure the informatics systems stay apace with the changes being experienced by the biobanking community. In turn, there is a requirement for the biobanks to have a clear informatics policy and directive that is embedded into the wider decision making process. As an example, the Breast Cancer Campaign Tissue Bank in the UK was a collaboration between four individual and diverse biobanks in the UK, and an informatics platform has been developed to address the challenges of running a distributed network. From developing such a system there are key observations about what can or cannot be achieved by informatics in isolation. This article will highlight some of the lessons learned during this development process.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)363-370
    Number of pages8
    JournalBiopreservation and Biobanking
    Issue number5
    Early online date29 Sept 2015
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015


    • Biological specimen banks
    • Biomedical research
    • Great Britain
    • Humans
    • Informatics
    • User-computer interface
    • Journal article
    • Research support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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