September 27, 2022
The future of modern medicine hugely relies on biobanking; biobanks collect, preserve, annotate, and disseminate biological samples (tissues, blood, nucleic acids) and their related metadata which are then used to identify relevant disease biomarkers to be used in disease diagnosis and drug development.
The global biobanking industry was worth $40.7 billion in 2021 and is expected to maintain a steady growth rate of 8.22% in the period ending in 2027. This impressive growth rate can be ascribed to increased interest in fields that are supported by biobanking, such as genomics and personalized medicine, among others.
Biobanks have come a long way. Earlier biobanks were university-based repositories that were created to support specific studies. Modern biobanks are sophisticated and dynamic entities that handle diverse human and non-human material, including biospecimens from endangered species. With the increasing complexity of the roles played by biobanks, advanced informatics such as artificial intelligence and machine learning have become integral in biobanking.
Different types of biobanks exist to support the variety of biospecimens collected for research. The various types of biobanks include genetic, blood, disease-centric, tissue banks, pediatric, and stem cell banks, among others. This high level of specificity makes it easier for researchers to find the specimen they need for research purposes. This eliminates unnecessary delays and fast-tracks drug development.
Medical science is advancing at an unprecedented rate and has achieved significant milestones such as the eradication of polio and other communicable diseases. But, as fate would have it, new ones such as the highly infectious SARS-CoV-2 virus and Monkeypox virus are emerging. Medical research relies heavily on technology to get ahead of the game and thankfully, one such tech such as genomics (genetically-engineered mRNA vaccines) played a huge role in halting the COVID-19 pandemic that killed over 6 million people in its wake.
Successful medical research always begins at the specimen level; making specimen collection, storage, annotation, and sharing of primary importance. Public and private biobanks are repositories that store different types of biospecimens needed for clinical research. Modern biobanks hold specialized genetic materials that are drivers for precision medicine; the future of biomedical research. Biobanks are supported by high-level technology to ensure that the quality of biospecimens and their related data is not compromised.
While genomics is the future of the treatment of cancer and rare diseases (affecting less than 200,000 people), genetic biobanks make it possible for researchers to access and share high-quality genetic biospecimens. Most cancers and rare diseases have a genetic etiology and can benefit from biomaterials stored at biobanks. Integrated genomics makes it possible for researchers to conduct genetic profiling of specific tumors and use this to gain a deeper understanding of the genetic drivers of cancers. While genomics may not be applicable to every cancer patient at the moment, it can boost the "effective treatment options" for those with the poorest prognosis based on currently available treatment regimens.
Precision medicine builds upon genomics to create personalized treatments for patients with severe conditions that may not be responsive to contemporary treatments. However, precision medicine doesn't stop at genetics but also takes into account one's environment and lifestyle and considers them as determinants of disease. Precision medicine, which has been described as the future of healthcare, relies heavily on biobanking.
Biobanks provide highly specialized specimens needed by pharma. For example, tumor banks provide high-quality and well-annotated specimens which are of key interest in oncology.
Human tissue biobanks are important tools in the discovery and development of new drugs. The discovery of high throughput techniques leading to biomarker discovery has paved the way for drug discoveries. By increasing access to high-quality specimens and clinical data, biobanks fast-track the development of new drugs and ensure that they reach patients in a timely fashion.
Modern biobanks receive humongous amounts of complex data that needs to be processed with speed and precision. This cannot be achieved without the support of high-level and precise informatics. Artificial intelligence is poised to revolutionize biobanking in many ways. For example, AI can be used to assess the quality of biosamples and recommend ones that are appropriate for research. Machine learning, big data, semantic web, and other computational models are also instrumental in the identification of high-quality and well-characterized samples and data for analysis.
A cloud-hosted biospecimen management system, also known as Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) or laboratory software for biobanking, automates and streamlines biobanking processes and ensures that the information is secure and accessible remotely 24/7. A biospecimen management system is instrumental in creating solutions to support specimen and data sharing and boost interoperability. Modern biobanks are encumbered with an avalanche of data generated from varied and specific biospecimens. A biospecimen management system helps biobanks maximize the value of their stored samples, meet regulatory requirements, and also promote scientific collaboration to enhance medical research.
Biobanks hold biological materials and their related metadata which are essential components of clinical research. In the last three decades, biobanks have evolved significantly and now can hold both human and non-human samples. Modern medicine is moving towards genomics and precision medicine; two fields of science that rely heavily on biobanking.
Genomics makes it possible to analyze tumors at the genetic level, and hence identify genetic mutations that may be risk factors, and also develop treatments targeting genetic changes.
Medicine draws a lot from genomics and other omics that are supported by biobanking. With this, it's evident that biobanking will continue to provide the building blocks for the future of the medical industry.