Performing research for any disease takes hard work, but it is nearly impossible to conduct ground-breaking research and advance science in an expedient manner without a solid starting point--The specimens. The raw material for most of the good work to happen in the life sciences can likely be found in ample quantities of quality-controlled and well-catalogued specimens linked to information about the person from whom they came and their health status.
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A Biobank refers to any organized collection of biological material that once was either part of a living organism or produced by it. While this blog post focuses on the human biospecimen repositories, the fundamental principles discussed are relevant for many if not most other biobank types. Furthermore the terms specimen, biospecimen and sample are used interchangeably.
Many institutions have biorepositories spread throughout multiple research centers or medical facilities. They are often found using differing solutions within each lab such as excel, homegrown databases or LIMS tools. Given the differing data elements and formats, data may be exchanged through email, thumb drives, or pushed to a folder on a local server.
The Semantic Web provides a means to link information on the web to each other and to things in real life in an interoperable way. Internationalized Resource Identifiers, of which URLs are a type, are used to identify nearly everything, and linked data makes it possible to visit those URLs to get more information about the things they represent. This has some very useful applications, especially in biobanking. Semantics was literally made for biomedical research, and here are four ways in which that relationship can help make biobanks better information resources:
Clinical trials require collection and management of patient Informed Consent Forms (ICF). This includes outlining parameters for which de-identified information, clinical/analytical data, and specimen collected (during and post clinical trial) would be used.