Biobanks aim to develop new forms of treatment and to promote human health through health sciences research.
Biological samples have been collected in Finland for health-care purposes essentially for a century. Alongside the reform of the sector, the scattered sample collections have been combined into a larger whole in biobanks, from where researchers can quickly and easily borrow samples for their research.
Matching the biological data obtained from sample collections with health data makes it easier to understand the etiology of diseases and helps target treatment.
The sample collections can be used, for example, for cancer research. They can help determine the relationship that exists between genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors when it comes to various diseases. The resulting outcomes can lead to more personalized health care, diagnostics and medical treatments. In the best-case scenario, biobank research can lead to a better awareness of preventive forms of treatment and can promote self-treatment.
Biobanks are taking Finnish research forward, promoting health in Finland and the rest of the world – thereby also improving Finland’s competitiveness.
The donation of samples is voluntary. Various samples are collected from patients on a daily basis in hospitals. Part of the samples, for example, a piece of tissue or a tube of blood, can be collected for the biobank with the patient’s informed consent.
Donors help support medical and health sciences research, which aims to develop new medicines, forms of treatment and diagnostic methods.
The biobank procures samples for its collection also through various research projects that have collected samples for specific research purposes, but which have been freed up for broader research use along with the Biobank Act.
The donation of a sample does not entail any additional measures or costs for the patient, nor does the refusal to donate result in any repercussions for the patient.
Only human biological samples are collected in the biobank. The samples can be, for example, tissue, blood, various bodily fluids or DNA isolated from cells. New samples are collected continuously from volunteer sample donors. The samples are physically stored in special storage rooms in the hospitals of Turku, Pori or Vaasa.
Samples are stored in the biobank until they are needed for research. The samples used for research are always encoded, so individual donors cannot be identified from their sample.
When the research is concluded, the sample-specific research results are entered in the biobank. This means the information connected to the sample “accrues interest”, and the sample or the research information it has provided can be used in subsequent research.
The biobank can assign samples and related data for the sole purpose of high-level health sciences research and product development.
The assignment of samples requires a positive statement from the biobank’s Scientific Steering Committee.
The biobank prepares a written agreement with the researcher’s background organisation concerning the granting of access to samples or data. The background organisation may be a Finnish or international research institution or company.
Old samples are ones that were taken in connection with treatment or medical research before the Biobank Act entered into force (1 Sept. 2013).
The Biobank Act contains a special provision according to which old samples can be transferred to the biobank either with the donor’s direct consent or through a notification process. The party that took the old sample can issue such notification in a personal letter or, in certain cases, by publishing it in media outlets. A transfer based on notification is not carried out if the donor of the sample refuses the transfer.
Careful protection of the donor’s personal information is the starting point for all biobank activities.
The biobank processes the donor’s personal information confidentially. Information about the donor’s identity is stored separately from the samples and related data. The biobank removes the donor’s personal information and any related information from its stored samples and replaces them with codes.
As a rule, the biobank assigns samples and their related information for research encoded without the donor’s identifiers.
The possibility to link the sample, if necessary, to a specific person is important so that biobank research can offer the donor or his/her family members new information about the donor’s disease or treatment methods. Determining the identity of the donor (opening the code) takes place under the responsibility and supervision of the director of the biobank.
The processing of personal information in the biobank is regulated by the Biobank Act, as well as the Personal Data Act, the Act on the Openness of Government Activities, and the Medical Research Act. The biobank’s personal data registers are processed in accordance with the requirements concerning the data security of confidential information. Only appointed persons are allowed access to the biobank’s registers, and access rights are monitored.
In some biobank research projects, there may be a special reason to include personal data with the sample and data delivered to the researcher. In such cases, the biobank requires that the donor has given separate consent on the matter for the research in question.
whether samples taken from him or her have been stored in the biobank
if the sample is in the biobank, the criteria based upon which the sample is stored (consent or notification method)
the source of the information concerning him or her
where his or her samples and information have been assigned or transferred to
information concerning his or her health as determined based on the sample, and an account of the significance of the information
Any requests for information must be submitted to the biobank in writing. For further information, please contact Auria Biobank (see contact information ).
Is ‘biobank’ just a fancy word for a dumpsite for eggshells and used teabags? Or are biobanks, in fact, a place where collections of clinical samples and related data are kept? Play Auria Biobank’s Bioholvi game to find out the answer.
Bioholvi is Auria Biobank’s mobile story game for high school and upper secondary school children. Its purpose is to concisely recount the biobank’s activities and objectives.
Please note! The Bioholvi game is in Finnish.