Importance of Well-annotated Biospecimen for Clinical Research


Biobanking plays a critical role in facilitating clinical research. It provides better opportunities for advancing community health by the collection and preservation of biospecimens such as blood, plasma, tissues, and DNA. These biospecimens are then made available for use in research to discover disease biomarkers that can be used to diagnose various phases of diseases, oversee severity of diseases and predicting drug responses. Therefore, availability of high-quality and well-annotated biospecimens is imperative. However, a major roadblock in research is the limited availability of biospecimens and associated clinical data including medical, genealogical, and lifestyle information.

Reasons for Limited Availability of Well Annotated Biospecimens for Research Use

There are several factors that result in the limited availability of the well-annotated biospecimens:

  1. Lack of understanding of donors about biospecimen banking, and may hesitate in participating.
  2. The donor does not participate voluntarily, they sign the consent just because they believe that they will not receive optimal medical care if they do not participate.
  3. Some donors donate only blood samples and are not ready to donate tissue samples.
  4. Approaching patients for taking their consents when they are ill and their mental and emotional state is sub-par is not accepted by risk management groups of any medical institution. Therefore, sometimes policies set by an individual hospital or local government become barriers to encourage biobanking.

How to Reduce Misconceptions About Donating Biospecimens

Nowadays, awareness of the need for biobanks with well-annotated biospecimens has increased because of the growing promise of clinical research towards the development of personalized medicine. Effective biobanking requires educating the community to reduce misconceptions about donating biospecimens. This can be achieved through:

  1. Teaching biobanking concepts and its importance in college-level courses or healthcare related meetings promoted by local communities.
  2. Educating the population by distributing community-wide education brochures by working in collaboration with hospitals and academic tissue banks.
  3. Institutional committees, IRB, and compliance departments should work in collaboration to build an effective biobank that can contribute to healthcare.

Types of Biobanks Supporting Clinical Research

There are different types of biobanks currently supporting medical research:

  1. Population-based biobanks: They obtain biospecimens along with associated patient demographic, lifestyle, and environmental data from individuals randomly selected from a community. These biobanks facilitate in studying common diseases and their progression, and identifying potential predictive biomarkers of disease risk.
  2. Disease-oriented biobanks: They obtain biospecimens from patient populations with specific disease types. These biobanks typically categorize the biospecimens based on diagnostic and treatment information.

Both types of biobanks facilitate clinical research by providing the comprehensive collection of biospecimens collected from both normal and diseased and in-turn accelerate drug discovery.

Critical Factors to Look at While Searching Biobanks for Obtaining Biospecimens for Research Purpose

Top-rated biobanks typically provide the high-quality and well-annotated biospecimens as they understand the importance of these biospecimens for the advancements in disease treatments and cures. However, while searching for a biobank partner, one should look carefully at the quality of biospecimen annotation. The biospecimen annotation should include:

  • Timing of biospecimen collection and processing activities.
  • In-depth and highly detailed demographics of patient profiles.
  • Precise and meticulous clinical annotations.
  • Thorough treatment history.
  • Accurate, well-organized disease information.

Importance of Access to Well-annotated Biospecimens

Clinical research and in-turn drug discovery is affected due to the lack of access to well-annotated biospecimen. This can lead to loss of time, money and resources. Sometimes drug candidates need to be withdrawn because of unanticipated side-effects, or a promising drug never gets approved if pharmaceuticals are unable to back their research with supporting data. Therefore, every effort should be made to increase societal awareness and understanding of the purpose of biobanks in healthcare. This will contribute to increasing the trust and confidence of donors regarding biobanking. In turn, there will be more participation of donor for providing well-annotated biospecimens and their consent for its use in research.