The Bellvitge Institute of Biomedical Research (IDIBELL) is presently assembling its own biobank, a facility that collects and stores biological samples from various patients for use in biomedical research.
Isidre Ferrer, director of the IDIBELL biobank, stated that “a facility of this type would utilize the samples that have been generously donated by patients, registering them and delivering them to researchers that request them”. The center is currently being housed in an annex building at Bellvitge Hospital. According to Ferrer, “We are currently outfitting the hospital so that the various divisions of the biobank can move there". For now, the managing and regulatory team comprises eight people, although many more personnel are involved in collecting samples from the different sites of the Bellvitge campus.
A step forward for biomedical research in Catalonia
Although biobanks began springing up around Europe a few years ago, no concrete facility has been established to date in Catalonia or the rest of Spain. “Though Catalonia is one of the leading Spanish autonomous communities in this area, there has yet to be a concerted effort to unify the operating, ethical and legal criteria of the various tissue collection facilities around the country. Thanks to an initiative of the Carlos III Health Institute in Madrid, biobanks such as those at IDIBELL and Hospital Clínic have united to create a true network of tissue banks that foster biomedical research and the sharing of knowledge”, affirmed Ferrer. Furthermore, he highlighted that facilities within Catalonia are unevenly distributed, but expressed confidence that the biobank network will help alleviate this situation and foment the creation of new facilities on Catalan hospital campuses.
The greatest benefit that the biobanks will offer is the advances in biomedical research that they will make possible. As Ferrer commented, “these structures are necessary, as they enable medical research to progress much more rapidly, owing primarily to their coordination of existing centers and to their extensive catalog of biological samples”.
Ethics come first
The IDIBELL biobank works with samples donated by patients. “We inform them of the opportunity to donate samples while just having blood drawn or to contribute to science when their life ends, and it is they, with their generosity, who truly make the medical advances possible”, explained Ferrer. As such, the ethical base of these biobanks is paramount. “We work to ensure that the registering, processing, and releasing of samples to researchers are all done with the utmost anonymity and professionalism, as a sign of respect to the individuals who have freely chosen to contribute to science". As Ferrer recalled, “the role of donors is essential, since there are numerous diseases which are exclusively human, and therefore, we cannot study these using animal tissue or other types of biological samples”.