- Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the Biobank Resource Centre (BRC)?
- What is a biospecimen?
- What is a biobank?
- What processes are involved in biobanking?
- What are annotated data?
- What is Biobank Certification?
- How is Biobank Certification different from
- Does your certification program include
- What services and tools does the BRC provide?
- What if I only want to take the biobank education modules, but do not
wish to register my biobank? Is there a cost for the education only?
- Are biobanks subject to ethics review?
- Is there an international organization for biobanking?
- How can I find biobanks to request biospecimens for my
- Where can I learn more about biobanking?
1. What is the Biobank Resource Centre (BRC)?
The Biobank Resource Centre (BRC) delivers tools and services for all types of researchers and biobankers. It is a
not-for-profit academic organization with a coordinating centre in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
THE BRC GOALS ARE:
- To provide services and tools that support researchers in establishing and operating biobanks
- To educate and promote certification of biobanks in order to enhance quality through adoption of best practice
2. What is a biospecimen?
Biospecimens are tissues, blood, body fluids and their derivatives typically collected for diagnosis and/or research
projects. Human biospecimens are defined as any biological material taken from a human individual for diagnostic or
research purposes. Examples of biospecimens are:
- Solid tissues and organs (i.e. skin, bone, muscle, liver, heart, kidney)
- Normal and diseased tissues and organs (i.e. tumours, immunological and inflammatory isorders)
- Gametes (sperm and ova)
- Fetal tissue
- Fluids (i.e. whole blood, serum, plasma, urine, feces, sputum, lavage fluids, nasal secretions, bile, vitreous
humour, cerebral spinal fluid (CSF)
3. What is a biobank?
A biobank (also commonly referred to as a biorepository, repository, or tissue bank) is a collection of biospecimens
and their associated "annotating" data. A biobank can be comprised of human, animal or environmental (e.g. seeds,
viruses, soil etc.) biospecimens. For the purpose of this website and our programs, we focus our attention on
4. What processes are involved in biobanking?
Biobanking can involve one or more of the following operations:
- Accrual and consent of participants
- Collection and processing of biospecimens
- Storage of biospecimens and data
- Data and records management
- Release and distribution of biospecimens and data
5. What are annotated data?
Annotated data are specific information associated with a biospecimen; for example, participant and biospecimen
information and/or health related clinical and outcome data. Biospecimens are obtained during clinic visits,
diagnostic or therapeutic surgical procedures, or during autopsies. Biospecimens may also be collected from both
healthy people and those with disease conditions.
6. What is Biobank Certification?
The OBER Biobank Certification program is a national initiative designed by a group of leading
Canadian biobanks and international biobanking experts to address minimum standards in biobanking. Ultimately, the
program's objective is to increase public confidence in biobanks, minimize risks to research institutions/ hospitals
and improve the quality of biospecimen collected for research.
7. How is Biobank Certification different from Accreditation?
Certification is the process by which a third party gives written assurance that a product, process or service
conforms to specific requirements whereas Accreditation is the procedure by which an authoritative body gives formal
recognition that a body or person is competent to carry out specific tasks.
Key differences to consider in certification vs accreditation:
- No formal oversight body required for the Certification organization
- Requires existence of an oversight body for the Certification organization
- The assessment body observes and judges the product, process or service and gives their written
assurance that conformity is met
- Conformity assessment must be formally demonstrated (e.g., lab demonstrates accurate test results on
a known standard test sample)
Source: Matzke and O'Donoghue et al. BIOPRESERVATION AND BIOBANKING. 10(5) 2012
8. Does your certification program include education?
Yes. For more information, please see the BRC Education page.
9. What services and tools does the BRC provide?
A spectrum of support services and resources are available for biobanks. These are designed to assist new biobanks
and existing biobanks, and include advice on planning, setup, protocols, database services and tools to enhance
The BRC offers a range of services to assist researchers in the set up and operation of biobanks including:
- Ethics and regulatory application preparation
- Quality Management documentation preparation
- Biobank Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) preparation and delivery
- Budget proposals and business planning
- Biospecimen processing, management, storage and retrieval infrastructure
- Biobank design, operation and management advice
- Biobank Database needs assessment, design and customization
Get a full overview of our Products and Services.
10. What if I only want to take the biobank education modules, but do not wish to register my
biobank? Is there a cost for the education only?
Yes. You can certainly access the education modules without registering your biobank.
Click on Sign Up to see the different account categories.
11. Are biobanks subject to ethics review?
All research involving human biospecimens requires ethics review. In some jurisdictions the biobank itself needs
Biobanks apply for ethics review commonly at the institutional level. The ethical and privacy laws that shape the
landscape exist at the local, provincial/state and federal level.
12. Is there an international organization for biobanking?
While there is no international organization that governs biobanking, the International Society for Biological and
Environmental Biorepositories (ISBER) is an international forum that addresses the technical, legal, ethical, and
managerial issues relevant to repositories of biological and environmental specimens. More information about ISBER
can be found at www.isber.org.
13. How can I find biobanks to request biospecimens for my research?
The Biobank Resource Centre hosts a Biobank Locator tool which allows you to identify biobanks around the world who
have registered for our certification program and are accepting research biospecimen requests. We are also working on
the development of a Biospecimen Locator tool to enhance researcher access to banked biospecimens.
There are also a number of international on-line resources which can help you identify biobanks with biospecimens available.
Go to Other Biobank Resources page.
14. Where can I learn more about biobanking?
See our Other Education Resources page to learn more about the
exciting world of biobanking.