Science Market Update

UC Bioresearch Gets Boost with NIH Funding for Biobanking, Translational Science

Posted by Jaimee Saliba on Tue, Nov 20, 2012

The University of California system has five biomedical campuses currently: San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Irvine, and Davis/Sacramento. While each campus maintains a certain autonomy, the advantage to being part of a unified, statewide system is especially apparent when it comes to sharing resources such as biospecimens. In research studies that require data from large numbers of human blood or tissue samples, for instance, scientists rely on biobanks: an organized collection of human biological material and associated information stored for one or more research purposes. 

The importance of these biorepositories for fundamental and translational research cannot be overstated. To advance their collective resources, the UC System has recently received an additional $2M grant from the NIH to bring its biobanking effort under one ultra-efficient system that will tackle longstanding biobanking ethical and management issues. Not that UC resources have been mis-managed; no, there have simply been a number of complex issues surrounding biobanking as a global phenomenon that each biobank has been resolving independently, which has led to differing standards, specimen quality, and consent forms, not to mention differing rules for sharing and commercialization of research results.

This recent biobanking initiative will be carried out under the auspices of the Clinical and Translational Science Initiative program (CTSI) at UCSF, led by Dr. Clay Johnston, MD, PhD, associate vice chancellor of research, and CTSI director; with co-direction by his counterpart at UCLA, Dr. Steven Dubinett, MD. Last year, UCSF's CTSI was awarded a $112M 5-year renewal of its NIH funding through the newly-established NCATS agency (National Clinical and Translational Science).

We tend to think of the movement of research as going from the lab to the clinic, but that unidirectionality skews the picture somewhat and suggests that basic research benefits little from what happens in hospitals and doctors' offices. The reason this biobanking initiative is a CTSI (translational research) concern is that basic research scientists rely on specimens that often come from people they will never meet or know who donated samples of their biological material as part of a visit to their practioner for some other matter entirely. This isn't always the case, but collecting "remnant" samples from a pathologist is an important avenue for specimen acquisition. (Say you get blood taken by your doctor, but the pathologist who runs the tests your doctor prescribes doesn't use all of the sample. What's left is the remnant, which may wind up in a research lab.)

The impetus for stepping up and clarifying the process of building a biobank from remnant and other donated samples is a series of proposed changes to Federal law on human research subjects that were introduced in July 2011. (See UC BRAID's general description of biobanking.) Consent on the part of the participant is the main issue at stake. When, how, and to what extent do you explain to a potential donor of biomaterials what you may or may not be going to do with their donation? Are they entitled to know what kinds of research it is being used for? Are you sufficiently protecting their identities? Are they due any residuals, such as access to therapies that may be developed using their input or information about latent disease that research may turn up when their sample is under the microscope? What if they give their sample for the good of science (i.e. for free, or even as part of an office visit they pay for) and that science winds up generating a profit-making technology?

Navigating these complex issues that have arisen with the explosion of bioresearch and genomics in the past two decades is key to ensuring that future research can benefit from the cataloging and availability of a potentially vast number of samples, and that the individual feels engaged in the process. The UC Biomedical Research, Acceleration, Integration & Development (UCBRAID) program has already begun this important work of clarifying and codifying biobanking procedures across the 5 UC biomed campuses as a part of their mission. What the current program aims to do is push the discussion out into the public sphere as well, which is why the acronym for the new initiative is EngageUC, standing for: Engaging University of California Stakeholders for Biorepository Research. "Stakeholders" in this case includes all of the individuals and entities that have a stake in the broader endeavor of understanding the human body and combatting disease.


Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. is a full-service event marketing and planning company producing on-campus life science research tradeshows nationwide for going on 21 years. We plan and promote each event to bring the best products and services to the best research campuses across the country. Life science researchers, purchasing agents, and lab managers are actively invited to attend to see the latest products and equipment and discuss their laboratory tool and service needs.

In just the first half of 2013 we will hold these annual tradeshow events on UC campuses in California:

  • 2/06/2013 -- UCSF Mission Bay, 8th Biotechnology Vendor Showcase event
  • 2/07/2013 -- UC Davis Medical Center, 11th Sacramento BioResearch Product Faire event
  • 2/14/2013 -- UC San Diego, 35th Biotechnology Vendor Showcase event
  • 4/02/2013 -- UC Santa Barbara, 5th Front Line event
  • 4/04/2013 -- UC Los Angeles, 31st Biotechnology Vendor Showcase event
  • 6/04/2013 -- UC Davis Medical Center, 12th Sacramento BioResearch Product Faire event
  • 6/05/2013 -- UC Berkeley, 16th BioResearch Product Faire event
  • 6/06/2013 -- UCSF Parnassus Campus, 22nd Biotechnology Vendor Showcase event


See our Nationwide Show Schedule for all of 2013 here.

Tags: CA, University of California Los Angeles, University of California San Francisco, Bioscience research, Bioresearch, Translational Research, Southwest, California, University of California, 2012, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, BioResearch Product Faire Event, Biotechnology Vendor Showcase

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