What is a biobank?

Biobanking has emerged as a critical tool for advancing research and healthcare by enabling the collection, storage, and distribution of biological samples and associated data. As the world grapples with increasing rates of chronic and infectious diseases and a growing need for personalized medicine, the demand for biobanking is on the rise. According to industry reports, the biobanking market is expected to grow from USD 71.4 billion in 2022 to USD 136.9 billion by 2030, reflecting a compound annual growth rate of 8.5%. This growth is being driven by a range of factors, including advancements in technology, government funding, and increasing awareness of the benefits of biobanking. In this blog, we’ll explore the basics of biobanking and answer frequently asked questions pertaining to this industry. .

What is a biobank?

A biobank is a type of biological repository that stores biological samples, such as tissue, blood, urine, and other bodily fluids, for research purposes. Biobanks are often used by researchers to study the causes, outcome or course of diseases, and invent new disease treatments.

Biobanks can be both public and private, and they often work with healthcare providers, researchers, and patients to collect and store samples. The samples are usually accompanied by medical and personal information of the donor, which helps researchers better understand the causes and progression of diseases.

Biobanks have become increasingly important in medical research and drug discovery, as they provide a large and diverse set of samples for research. They also facilitate collaboration between researchers and institutions, as well as ensure that samples are collected and stored in a standardized and ethical manner.

What is the purpose of a biobank?

The purpose of a biobank is to collect, process, and store biological samples and associated data for research purposes. Biobanks provide researchers with access to a large and diverse range of high-quality samples, such as tissues, blood, urine, and other bodily fluids, along with the associated medical and personal information of the donors.

The samples and data stored in biobanks can be used for a variety of research purposes, such as studying the causes and progression of diseases, developing new treatments and therapies, identifying biomarkers for disease diagnosis, and advancing our understanding of the human body and its functions. Biobanks also provide a means of tracking health outcomes over time, which can help researchers identify patterns and trends in disease prevalence and treatment efficacy.

By facilitating research, biobanks play an important role in improving healthcare and promoting the development of new medical treatments and technologies. Biobanks also operate under strict ethical and legal guidelines to ensure that the privacy and confidentiality of donors are protected, and that samples and data are collected and used in a responsible and respectful manner for the intended purpose.

How many types of biobanks are there?

There are several types of biobanks, each with its own focus and objectives. Some of the most common types of biobanks include:

Disease-specific biobanks: Disease-specific biobanks collect and store samples from individuals with a specific disease or condition, such as cancer, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease. The samples are used to study the causes and progression of the disease and to develop new treatments and therapies.

Population-based biobanks: These biobanks collect samples and data from a large group of individuals from a particular geographic region or population. The samples are used to study the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to a disease and to identify biomarkers for disease diagnosis.

Research-oriented biobanks: These biobanks are established specifically to support a particular research project or program, such as a clinical trial or drug development initiative. The samples collected may be used exclusively for that project or program.

Biobanks for rare diseases: These biobanks collect samples from individuals with rare or orphan diseases that are difficult to study due to their low prevalence. The samples are used to study the diseases and develop new treatments and therapies.

General-Purpose Biobanks: These biobanks collect samples and data from a broad range of individuals and may be used for a variety of research purposes. They often serve as a resource for researchers who need access to high-quality samples and data.

Who owns a biobank?

Biobanks can be owned by a variety of entities, including government organizations, research institutions, hospitals, universities, non-profit organizations, and private companies. The ownership structure may impact how the biobank is managed and governed. Regardless of ownership, biobanks are subject to ethical and legal guidelines to protect the privacy and confidentiality of donors and ensure responsible use of the samples and data.

Why are LIMS important for biobanks?

Biobanking LIMS (Laboratory Information Management Systems) are crucial for biobanks due to their ability to track and manage samples, streamline workflows, ensure data integrity, and facilitate collaboration. They enable biobanks to effectively store, track, and distribute biological samples while maintaining quality control and complying with regulatory guidelines. LIMS enhance the efficiency and accuracy of data management, sample tracking, and workflow processes, making them an essential tool for biobanking operations.

Who runs a biobank?

Biobanks are typically run by a team of professionals with expertise in areas such as biospecimen collection, processing, and storage, database management, quality control, ethics, and regulatory compliance. The day-to-day operations are overseen by a director or manager, with support from technicians and administrative staff. A governing board or steering committee may also be in place to set policies and make decisions regarding the management and use of the biobank.

What do biobanking operations look like?

Biobanking mainly involves the following four standard operations:

Collection: It is the preliminary step wherein the biological samples are collected and other sample related information such as collection date and time, origin, quantity, etc.

Processing: It ensures both preservation of sample properties and the integrity of the associated clinical or genetic data. An example is the Tetrazolium salt test to check cell viability in the skin graft collected from a cadaver. The quality and consistency of biospecimen sampling and processing determines the reliability of molecular and clinical data deciphered from the sample.

Storage: After the biospecimens are collected and processed, they are stored in an environment that keeps their integrity and quality intact. For eg: cryopreservation of tissue samples in liquid nitrogen at -196 degrees Celsius.

Distribution: A biobank typically makes available samples it collects or large collections for cancer or cohort research.


The concept of biobanking is not new. Over the past thirty years, biobanks have evolved considerably. In comparison to the initial biobanks, the modern day biobanks are designed as a common resource supporting a broad range of scientific investigations. The era of personalized medicine has brought in new discoveries for a better understanding of the etiopathology of human diseases. The role and importance of biobanks which links the biological samples to medical and biomedical information have become more important in the present time. Recent advances in translational research have also introduced multi-disciplinary approaches. These advances in turn have provoked a lot of contemporary questions that are yet to be answered. Proper networking and harmonization of biobanks can further unleash their full potential as a powerful single platform for research innovations. Biobanking due to its broad coverage faces a number of ethical, social, and legal challenges related to sample storage, donor data protection, and information sharing. As a process, biobanking is facing the lack of harmonization, lack of standards, and best practices for collecting data and processing samples. Harmonization is a more flexible approach aimed at ensuring the effective interchange of valid information and samples. It further refers to generating, sharing, pooling, and analyzing data and biological samples to allow combining resources and comparing results obtained from different biobanks.

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