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2018 Will Be a Big Year for Biobanks

December 11, 2017

Biobanks provide access to human biospecimens for scientific research

Nearly nine years ago, TIME magazine officially listed biobanks as one of 10 ideas changing the world. In 2018, we predict we will finally see that change realized.

Biobanks have amassed impressive quantities of human tissue, biofluids and cells that scientists can study to discover treatments and cures – by some estimates, more than 1 billion samples worldwide. Early on, the focus was on filling the biorepositories and refining the protocols used for collecting and storing samples. The focus was not on ensuring that the resulting biospecimens were easily accessible by researchers who needed them.

Learn More About Specimen Procurement

Consequently, despite the fact that rapidly increasing quantities of samples were stored away in biobanks ready for use, researchers working on new diagnostics and therapeutics said a scarcity of samples hampered their ability to conduct research. This problem of acquiring high-quality specimens for research has only intensified as a new era of precision medicine has required a larger quantity of more highly characterized biospecimens.

Ironically, while researchers were having trouble accessing biospecimens, the vast majority of biobanks were saying, as in this U.S. Biobank Survey, that their samples were underutilized and that financial sustainability was a problem. These concerns still plague the biobanking community today.

Addressing these challenges – specimen accessibility and utilization – could mean bigger returns on biorepositories’ investments in sample collection and management and could be the answer for sustaining their critical work. But meeting these challenges also requires biobanks to find a way to more easily connect to the researchers who need their samples. Fortunately, that time has come.

2018 will be the year of biobank sustainability.

Bringing sellers and buyers together

Biorepositories are rapidly transforming themselves by actively making their samples more broadly available using the same internet that has streamlined so many other markets, e.g., books via Amazon.com. This transformation is our raison d’etre and is why we created the  iSpecimen Marketplace.

The iSpecimen Marketplace uses technology to match health-care organizations that have access to patients and specimens with the scientists who need them. As with many online marketplaces, ours enables a radically efficient distribution of products and services.

Researchers can use the marketplace to intuitively search for precise specimens and patients across a vast network of hospitals, labs, biobanks, blood centers, and other health-care organizations that are making their specimens available to third parties. The iSpecimen Marketplace allows these healthcare organizations to promote their inventories, connect to researchers, enhance their bottom lines and contribute to biomedical progress.

In this way, the marketplace directly addresses the lingering concerns about biobank sustainability and the underutilization of samples. The beauty is that biobanks are reaping returns on hard work they’ve already completed.

Change the world? It was predicted nine years ago. In 2018, the Year of Biobank Sustainability, we predict it will happen.

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