Five fast facts


 1.  A biobank is a safe house for tissue samples, tumour cells, DNA and blood samples which are used for research into new treatments for diseases.  Think of it as an organic bank account. You put your biomaterial in and earn medical interest in the form of knowledge and therapies that grow from that deposit.  
 2.  Biobanks usually incorporate cryogenic storage facilities and range in size from individual refrigerators to warehouses (like those pictured).

There are many types of biobanks including biobanks for plants, seeds, animal material and human tissues.  Human biobanks tend to be population-based or focused on a specific disease.  The most common biobanks in the human sphere tend to be cancer based.


Some collections date back decades.  The Aboriginal genome, for instance, was sequenced from a lock of hair originally given to British ethnologist Alfred Cort Haddon in the 1920s.  He crisscrossed the world gathering samples that are now housed at the University of Cambridge, UK.

5. More than 60% of Iceland’s adults have donated DNA and biological samples to the country’s biobank (deCODE Genetics), and in the United Kingdom 500,000 people are part of the UK Biobank. 

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