Biobanking is a fascinating sector of the biological pharmaceutical industry. Biobanking is the process of collecting samples of bodily fluid (blood, urine, etc) or tissue for the purpose of research. The research done on these bio samples helps improve our understanding of health and disease. Traditionally, information such as height, weight, and other health bearing questions will be asked to give context for each sample. Depending on the study, a sample may be kept for several years or sometimes indefinitely in different biological pharmaceutical storage conditions for sample management. Though “biobanking” might seem like an odd term, it is an incredible part of the biological pharmaceutical industry that helps reduce and eliminate diseases and improve health measures throughout the world.
Benefits of Using Biological Pharmaceutical Practices
Biostorage is important. One of the most critical aspects of biological pharmaceuticals is increased accuracy in pharmaceutical studies. Traditionally, biobanks receive, store, process, and discard samples of DNA from humans and animals. Biobanks also host bacterial strains and environmental samples from plants and soils, providing a vital infrastructure for scientific research.
Though biobanks are widely available in the United States and other highly developed countries, there are a number of places where biobanks are quite scarce. For example, in regions of Africa, there are issues with internet connectivity, access to water, and reliable access to electricity, which make it difficult to operate a biobank within proper standards.
Having access to samples from areas of the developing world could provide powerful tools for biobanks worldwide. As an example, the larger a genetic pool is, the more researchers and scientists can accurately understand it. Having access to the incredible genetic diversity across Africa would provide research in understanding disease as well as developing better treatments, medicines, and vaccines.
Additionally, being able to replicate the results of an experiment is an important aspect of proper scientific research. By having access to a wide genetic sample to apply tests to, researchers can replicate results (or fail to replicate), which will help verify which results can be trusted and used. In spite of the high costs that might be associated with biobanks, because each biobank provides additional quality control and assurance, developing countries would find huge benefit from investing in their production and maintenance.
Some studies have shown that throughout the world, scientists are only able to show reproducibility in a meager 30% of other scientists’ experiments. The number of scientists able to reproduce their own experiments is only slightly better at 50%. Not only is this difficult for research purposes, but it also places a huge financial burden on researchers, costing around $28 billion each year on studies that cannot be replicated.
Biobanks, no matter their size, have high quality control that helps improve reproducability of experiments. To understand just how important this quality control is, realize that the average pharmaceutical company loses $150,000 per year in temperature slips when transporting samples or medicine.
Sample transportation, processing, storage, and analysis are all done according to strict standards that are uniform throughout the world. This leads to a high amount of trust and assurance across the scientific community. Researchers who use a biobank have a level of reassurance that any biological sample from a biobank that is used will be consistent and controlled.
Biobanks are life-saving institutions. By supporting the infrastructure that allows researchers and scientists to study and eradicate disease, an untold number of lives are spared each year. Think about what the world would be like today with polio, small box, or malaria running rampant throughout the United States. It isn’t a pretty picture. Though first world countries have eliminated or reduced many life-threatening diseases, that is not the case for the rest of the world.
In addition to helping improve infant mortality rates in developing countries, biobanks are also being used to help study things like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, which affect hundreds of thousands of people every year. Biobanks work on both ends of the spectrum: decreasing infant mortality and increasing quality and longevity of life in adults.