The German Biobank Alliance (GBA) continues to grow

The German Biobank Alliance (GBA) welcomes 15 more biobanks to its network. Four years after ist foundation, the GBA thus encompasses biobanks at almost all German university hospitals. 35 academic biobanks and one IT development centre are now working together in the network coordinated by the German Biobank Node (GBN). By processing and storing human biospecimens and making them available with associated data, biobanks play an important role for biomedical research. GBA biobanks establish joint quality standards and network via an IT infrastructure. They thus offer ideal conditions for cross-biobank collections of biospecimens – a particular asset for COVID-19 research.

Modern medicine is becoming ever more precise: diseases are increasingly diagnosed on the basis of subtle molecular differences in order to be able to apply the individually appropriate therapy at the right time for each patient. "The knowledge for such precision medicine can only be acquired through the comprehensive analysis of biosamples from both healthy and diseased donors. Biobanks therefore collect, process and store blood, tissue and other body materials with the utmost care and make them available for research," says Prof. Dr. Michael Hummel, head of the German Biobank Node (GBN). 

Comparable sample quality, easy access 

The quality of the samples used and rapid access to them is crucial for the success of biomedical research. The GBA was founded in 2017 to establish uniform quality standards for academic biobanks in Germany and to network them via a common IT structure. It has now associated 15 more biobanks to its network: the Augsburg Centralized Biobank of Augsburg University Medical Center is a new partner biobank of the GBA and, in addition, 14 observer biobanks are now represented. The DRFZ Cell-based Biobank in Berlin, the BioMaterialBank (BMB) Nord in Borstel, the BIPS Biobank Bremen, the Biomaterialbank of the University Tumour Centre Düsseldorf, the Central Biobank Erlangen (CeBE), the UGMLC Giessen Biobank, the Biobank Network at the UKE in Hamburg, the HOM-BMB in Homburg, the PopGen 2.0 Network (P2N) in Kiel, the Biobank of the Medical Faculty of the University of Cologne, the Biobank of the UK OWL/Campus Klinikum Lippe, the UMM Biobank and the Biobank of the Central Institute of Mental Health (ZIPP Biobank) in Mannheim, and the Central Biobank of the Medical Faculty of Münster (zbb-mfm) applied successfully for the observer status introduced this year in preparation for a future GBA partnership.

Essential infrastructure for biomedical research 

"The newly included biobanks enrich our network extraordinarily. With them, the GBA becomes more potent and able to support research throughout Germany," says GBN managing director Dr. Cornelia Specht. With their collections, the new biobanks will prospectively expand the alliance's sample pool, which scientists can search for specific characteristics via the online tool "Sample Locator" and thus find suitable samples for their research. Hummel adds, "With the expansion of the GBA to almost all university hospitals, modern, networked biobanking is taking a big step forward – not only in Germany, but also across Europe with our partner structure BBMRI-ERIC."  

About the GBA

In 2017, biobanks from eleven German university hospitals and two IT development centres joined forces in the GBA under the umbrella of the GBN, followed by seven more biobank sites in 2019 and two in 2020. Since 2021, partner biobanks at 21 sites, 14 observer biobanks and one IT development centre have been working within the GBA. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) provides funding for the work of GBN, which is supported by the German Cancer Research Center Heidelberg (DKFZ) for IT as well as by the BioMaterialBank Heidelberg (BMBH) and the Integrated Biobank Jena (IBBJ) for quality management.

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