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Harmonizing Biobank Research Conference in 2009

How can we maximise the value and use of epidemiological biobanks by harmonising efforts between countries? This is the theme of a conference being held on the 25-27th March in Brussels, Belgium.

Co-organised by PHOEBE (Promoting Harmonisation of Epidemiological Biobanks), P3G (Public Population Project in Genomics) and BBMRI (Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure), the conference will cover two overarching themes: Using Biobanks and Maximising the Use of Biobanks.

Recent years have witnessed intense activities targeted towards building a harmonised network of biobanks to support large-scale genomics. Substantial investments in biobanking will continue to evolve and serve large European bioscience, and bioscience worldwide. Many countries envision that biobanks will become a part of their medical research and health care infrastructure. An already impressive number of funded initiatives are working on critical building blocks of the harmonisation and infrastructure agendas. These projects span population-based and special populations (PHOEBE, GENOMEUTWIN, ENGAGE, EUROSPAN, GEHA, PHIME, DIOGENES, etc), disease-specific and tissue banks (DANUBIOBANK, GenOSept, IMPACTS, HYPERGENES, CCPRB, GENPI-ENTB2, ORPHANET, EUROBONET, CONTICANET, TRANSBIG, GENOMEL, etc), infrastructure building (BBMRI, INSTRUCT, INFRAFRONTIER, EATRIS, EATRIN, ELIXIR), harmonisation tools and technologies (MOLPAGE, BIOSAPIENS, Gen2PHEN, MOLTOOLS, ReaDNA, INFOBIOMED, SYMBIOMATICS, etc) and ELSI, society and public health (GeneBanC, Priviledged, PHGEN, TISS.EU, etc). The collective output from these projects have already made significant inroads in biobanking science and in the science of biobanking. This includes work related to identifying key issues, design and management of biobanks, SOPs for sample handing, cataloguing and comparing information, coordinated development of compatible bioinformatics, including systems for access across biobanks of data, information and tools, special populations, mapping ethico-legal frameworks and developing biobank ELSI.

This conference aims to be an integrated hands-on' forum. As harmonisation agendas move forward we are also witnessing substantial impacts of the harmonisation work conducted to date in ongoing genomic projects. Indeed, these harmonisation platforms are core to the success of many projects such as the recently funded European Network of Genetic and Genomic Epidemiology ' (ENGAGE). An important consequence of using these harmonisation outputs in ongoing projects is that a new reservoir of knowledge, experience and expertise is emerging which is crucial to share with the biobanking community at large. This conference will provide an opportunity for such information exchange, plus a forum to challenges and share with each other what is working in practice, in the field. Furthermore, as harmonisation agendas progress they carry with them new opportunities and novel strategies for maximising the use of biobanks. For example, extensions to translational medicine are already on the horizon. Two main themes of the conference will be:

1) Using Biobanks were ongoing studies (e.g. ENGAGE, MOLPAGE, EUROSPAN, CPAC) are used as case projects that describe how they have harmonised using various tools and solutions and where there are bottlenecks, and

2) Maximising the Use of Biobanks which encompasses new harmonization efforts such as meta analyses across biobanks and new directions for moving forward such as in translational medicine by bridging between biobank typologies (e.g. disease and population banks).

The organisers are three interrelated initiatives who are working closely together to develop biobank science and research. These are: Promoting the Harmonisation of Epidemiological Biobanks in Europe' (PHOEBE), Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructures (BBMRI), and Public Population Project in Genomics, (P3G).


Contact: Elisabeth Shaw
Norwegian Institute of Public Health

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