GBN conducts Europe-wide proficiency test

The Integrated Biobank Jena (IBBJ), quality centre of the German Biobank Node (GBN), has for the first time conducted a proficiency test with biobanks from several European countries. The IBBJ has been designing the GBN proficiency testing programme for body fluids since 2017, and has developed tests to identify and minimise process variability in biobanks. While these were previously conducted exclusively with biobanks from the German Biobank Alliance (GBA), 21 biobanks from six countries have now participated in an international programme.

Sample receipt, aliquoting and shipping

The quality-assured handling of biospecimens and their associated data is a key prerequisite for reliable and reproducible research results. However, pre-analytical factors can affect the quality of many analytical parameters. As part of the GBN quality programme, regular proficiency tests are carried out to check the quality of the samples and thus the processes in the biobanks. “The proficiency test, which we have now conducted with several European biobanks, focuses on key processes such as checking incoming samples, aliquoting blood samples and shipping samples,” says Sven Heiling, research associate at IBBJ. “For example, the volume accuracy of the aliquots and compliance with appropriate shipping temperatures on dry ice are checked.”

Results in the “IgLoo score”

In order to clearly present the results of the proficiency test, an “IgLoo score” (RInGversuche zur Bewertung der Leistungsfähigkeit vOn BiObanken) was developed based on the “Nutri-Score”. This shows on a three- to five-level colour scale from A to E which result a biobank has achieved in the corresponding processes. Overall, the biobanks performed well to very well. In some cases, however, there is still room for improvement, for example in the areas of dry ice shipping and incoming inspection.

Unique in Europe

The proficiency testing scheme is currently unique in Europe. “For the first time, the initiative has given us the opportunity to participate in a proficiency test specifically for biobanks,” says Dr. Hilde Brouwers of the Central Biobank of the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam. “We are very pleased with this programme and would like to participate again.”

Improving comparability in multicentre projects

PD Dr. Dr. Michael Kiehntopf, member of the GBN board of directors and head of the IBBJ, emphasises the importance of the offer for the biobanking community: “The successful implementation of this Europe-wide interlaboratory test underlines GBN's commitment to the highest quality standards in biobanking. The overall goal is to minimise process variability between biobanks and thus improve the comparability of observations in multi-centre projects. In this way, we create important prerequisites for successful biomedical research.”

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