Networked IT infrastructure for multicentre sample collections.

GBN’s IT network links biobanks and facilitates the search for human biosamples and associated data across multiple locations.


GBN’s IT infrastructure consists of a federated network of bridgeheads. Bridgeheads are data integration servers established by each biobank that they fill with relevant data from the biobank (sample data) and clinical systems at the site (clinical data). The biobanks are responsible for local operation and retain full control of their biosamples and data. The Data Protection Concept outlines how the data protection and security requirements stipulated in the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are met. View the Data Protection Concept and other relevant documents. The current datasets are stored on SIMPLIFIER; an overview is also available here.

The underlying open source software for the IT infrastructure’s central and local components is developed continuously in cooperation with BBMRI-ERIC (Common Service IT) and the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ). The source code is available here. The Implementation Guide explains how to connect a biobank to the Sample Locator and which requirements must be met. It also contains step-by-step instructions.


    Sample Locator
    Researchers conduct decentralised searches via the Sample Locator’s central search interface to locate suitable biosamples and data for their research projects (“feasibility query”) The biobanks’ bridgeheads evaluate the queries and identify potentially suitable samples. See here for more information on the Sample Locator.

    Authentication and Negotiator
    If a feasibility query via the Sample Locator is successful, users log in to contact relevant biobanks and refine their query. Negotiator has been developed for this purpose. Users must register for Negotiator via the German National Research and Education Network (DFN). They can then communicate efficiently with several biobanks at the same time via Negotiator and the biobanks can also share information on the availability of samples/data confidentially.

    Bridgehead with data warehouse and connector
    The bridgehead implemented in the biobanks consists of a data warehouse and a connector. To ensure the greatest possible interoperability, the data is harmonised according to the international HL7-FHIR® standard. This is achieved through a local extraction, transformation and loading (ETL) process. The Implementation Guide contains detailed information on the technical implementation of data harmonisation and setup of a local bridgehead.

    German Biobank Directory
    The German Biobank Directory provides an overview of the biobanks in Germany that are relevant for biomedical research. Biobanks provide contact details along with aggregated information on sample collections in this central register. Biobanks connected to GBN’s IT infrastructure can update the information in the German Biobank Directory automatically. As with the Sample Locator, researchers and biobanks communicate via Negotiator. See here for more information on the German Biobank Directory.


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