Anniversary Meeting of the German Biobank Alliance (GBA)

From 18 to 19 May, 39 representatives of the German Biobank Alliance (GBA) met in Dresden to discuss the results of their joint work and current developments in biobanking. The anniversary meeting was jointly organised by the German Biobank Node (GBN) and the BioBank Dresden team at the University Hospital Dresden. "Within five years, the GBA has expanded from 11 biobank sites to 37 – this demonstrates the need for a common harmonised biobank platform very impressively," said Prof. Dr. Michael Hummel, Head of the German Biobank Node (GBN), in his welcoming speech. "One of our strengths lies in the lively and open exchange of information and experience. That's why our alliance particularly thrives on meetings like this."

Bornhäuser and Chavakis: Biobanking as a basis

Prof. Dr. Martin Bornhäuser, Director of Medical Clinic I and Director of the National Centre for Tumour Diseases (NCT) Dresden, and Prof. Dr. Triantafyllos Chavakis, Director of the Institute for Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine Dresden, spoke at the opening. Martin Bornhäuser emphasised the important position of the BioBank Dresden in the interaction with other platforms at the location. After all, these platforms build on the activities of the biobank – the quality-assured acquisition of biospecimens, the harmonised consent and access process as well as the linkage with clinical data are fundamental here. The BioBank Dresden is jointly supported by the Carl Gustav Carus University Hospital Dresden, the Carl Gustav Carus Medical Faculty of the TU Dresden, the Helmholtz Centre Dresden-Rossendorf and the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ) and has been a partner biobank of the GBA since 2019.

Advantages of serial samples and cohort studies

Triantafyllos Chavakis also emphasised the importance of sample quality in his presentation. Particularly in the context of "untargeted metabolomics", the quality and breadth of the initial samples is decisive for the significance of the results. Chavakis and Bornhäuser emphasised the value of serial samples and thus also the relevance of cohort studies – if biosamples from the time before the onset of a disease are available for a patient, this can mean a decisive advantage for diagnostics and therapy.

Epidemiological studies of the GBA: Gutenberg, KORA, SHIP

The following presentations focused on just such cohorts. Three epidemiological studies that are based in GBA biobanks were presented: the Gutenberg Health Study (BioBank Mainz), the KORA Study (Joint Biobank Munich) and the SHIP Study (Integrated Research Biobank Greifswald). While KORA and SHIP have been running since the 1990s, the Gutenberg study started in 2007. The Gutenberg COVID-19 study, for example, demonstrates how such cohorts can be used as resources for current research questions, providing insights into Long COVID. However, all three study representatives reported that linking the study with clinical data in case test persons fall ill is often a challenge.

Reports from the GBA working groups

During the meeting, activities and results were also reported from various GBA working groups: the Stakeholder Management WG, the Finance WG, the Starter Kit WG and the Industry Cooperation WG. The Starter Kit WG, for example, presented the comprehensive documents the participants have developed, which, in the future, should make it easier for newly founded biobanks to get started. The Stakeholder Management WG presented an interim status of its "Testimonial Campaign", in which researchers promote individual GBA biobanks with short statements. The campaign is scheduled to be published at the end of June.

First GBA meeting after Corona break

"I am very pleased that the GBA meeting could take place in Dresden after the Corona-related break and that we offered our colleagues an insight into our biobank – particularly into the automated PBMC isolation," said Dr. Heidi Altmann, Division Manager of the Dresden Integrated Liquid Biobank of BioBank Dresden, after the meeting. GBN Managing Director Dr. Cornelia Specht added: "It was also very favourable that we were finally able to meet representatives of the biobanks admitted to the GBA in the last two years in person."

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