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Biosample Hub creates world-first

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A world-first in biosampling is helping to redefine the traditional way in which researchers in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry gather the biosamples they need.

Through the creation of Biosample Hub, industry can find academic biobank partners to secure biosamples in a way which provides solutions to the traditional problems around biosample procurement. 

Recent research revealed that 80 per cent of companies in the UK found accessing patient samples unexpectedly difficult – an issue which also translates onto a global scale. 

Traditionally, biosamples are procured via biobank directory or commercial broker, but both have issues in their process, particularly in the broker process around the transparency and traceability of samples and the ethics involved. 

As a result, in areas like Western Europe where commercial brokers are poorly accepted, vast biosample resources are inaccessible to industry.

However, with the creation of not-for-profit Biosample Hub – established by biobanking pioneer Robert Hewitt – the ethics and transparency are restored into the process. 

“I’d always known the difficulties in supply of samples and the difficulties of industry to access them, so wanted to do something to improve this,” says Robert, who has over 30 years’ international experience in the field of biobanking.  

“The problem with procurement of patient samples is that when it is done on a commercial basis it creates certain conflicts. It’s really important the user of the sample knows exactly where it comes from – they need to be sure it has come from a reliable source to yield reliable results. 

“Equally, the supplier of that sample should know where it ends up. A patient has entrusted that biobank with their sample and to take care of it, but when it goes to a broker, it’s more questionable whether you will know that. 

“Also, there are laws prohibiting the sale of human samples for profit – while hospital biobanks need to recover their costs, they have to ensure they don’t run the risk of selling these samples for profit and be very careful with costings. But to a broker, they would argue that they are not selling just the sample, it’s also the service and expertise. 

“It’s a very grey area with two different worlds, one where things have to be costed very carefully and one where they seek to make a profit, and they don’t work well together.” 

With the creation of Biosample Hub, which was launched in July 2020, Robert has created a means of collecting biosamples in an ethical and financially transparent way – with net profit divided between necessary reinvestment in the company and donation to research charities, selected by members and the advisory panel – while also providing a forum for industry and academia to meet. 

Comprising three main components – its biobank directory, all of which confirm they are keen to work with industry; the company directory, which enables biobanks to find companies they could partner with; and its requests directory, for biospecimen procurement requests – Biosample Hub is being welcomed by both sides of the process. 

“People like the transparency, that’s the main feedback we have received so far,” says Robert, who has previously served as president of the ISBER International Biobanking Association and as co-founder and executive officer of the ESBB Biobanking Association. 

“We are bringing the two sides together to offer networking capabilities, which can lead to the opportunity to share clinical and scientific expertise through collaborative research.

“While those relationships may develop away from the platform, and there is of course a concern around whether they will do things independently, we believe people will find the platform so useful in terms of building their network, they will stay on the platform. 

“Promoting direct communication maximises benefits and we are pleased to enable this.”

Going forward, with the international growth of Biosample Hub, Robert is confident in its potential. 

“We could make a very big impact,” he says, “and as we do that, we will need to bring in new people to our team. 

“We want to provide very good customer support in addition to the service the platform delivers – there is always the need for human support in addition to what we can do using technology – so we will need to bring in new people as the number of customers grows. 

“From recognising the need to create a solution to the situation, we have now created that solution in Biosample Hub and are very confident in its future.” 

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  1. Pingback: Biosamples - business vs ethics - Health Tech World

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