Stanford expands biobank services

The Stanford Biobank is launching a state-of-the-art biospecimen management system and setting up economical, off-site sample storage options.

Rohit Gupta says the new biospecimen management system at the biobank will make it easier for researchers to track and share biological samples.
Kris Newby

The Stanford Biobank is rolling out new services that will enable researchers to better track, share and protect biological samples and the deidentified patient data associated with them. 

The biobank has launched a new biospecimen management system that tracks the locations of barcoded samples and provides online links to corresponding patient health records, clinical notes and molecular data in the university’s REDCap and EPIC information systems. All linked information related to a sample can be securely viewed by individual labs and shared with collaborators. 

Before the project began, Rohit Gupta, the biobank’s executive director, recognized that many researchers have troves of surplus biospecimens that could be used by others for follow-on studies if there was an easy way to facilitate sharing of both samples and data. To that end, Gupta’s team developed BioCatalyst, a secure website that provides access to all the data associated with a given biological sample. In the second phase of this project, which will launch in 2020, BioCatalyst will provide researchers with integrated tools for managing, analyzing and visualizing molecular/-omics data.

The Stanford Biobank also provides faculty with on-site and off-site freezer storage. Labs that want to transition to this new system can use a preapproved consulting firm for help with moving the samples or advice on how to move them. The off-site storage facility, located in California’s Central Valley, offers 24/7 temperature monitoring and fast distribution of samples back and forth to Stanford. The off-site storage not only reduces the risk of sample destruction due to earthquakes, power outages and fires, but it frees up expensive campus lab space for more researchers and equipment.

Gupta said the most important aspect of this new biospecimen management system is the potential for researchers worldwide to share disease and specimen data, reducing the total time and cost of collection and analysis.

One of the obstacles to sharing samples or data is obtaining patients’ permission to use them in future studies. To facilitate this sharing, Gupta is collaborating with multiple departments at Stanford to launch an electronic consent platform that includes an explanatory video and online consent form in which patients have the option to allow their samples to be used in future studies. 

The biobank currently houses the samples and data associated with almost 200 projects, including two large flu and chronic fatigue studies, a biorepository for the rare NGLY1 deficiency genetic defect, and patient data for the adult and pediatric transplantation group. 

Gupta’s team is also working on gaining accreditation as a College of American Pathologist biobank.

Researchers interested in using the Stanford Biobank should send an email to sbcrequest@stanford.edu. To promote the transition to this new system, the dean’s office has agreed to provide financial incentives.



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