Five steps to supporting Biobank-researcher partnerships
Sep 19

Five steps to supporting Biobank-researcher partnerships

A successful Biobank is one whose tissues are in demand and being used. If your samples are “flying off the shelves” then you’re a real success! However, if demand is low then effectively, you’re just a tissue archive. And that’s not what the donors had in mind when they generously donated their tissues – they want them to be used to benefit patient treatments. So, having a partnership with a research for whom you’re the “go to” tissue source is great news for both of you. But how do you promote such partnerships? Here are our five key-steps to help you create and strengthen your Biobank-researcher partnerships.

1.   Get noticed in the first place

You need to be “on the radar” so that researchers know you exist and then you can start building your Biobank-researcher partnerships. The easiest way to let researchers know you exist and what tissues you hold is to register with the UKCRC. It’s easy to register and it’s so beneficial that many funders now insist that you do. So, if you want funding – it’s really a “no brainer”.

In addition, the UKCRC now allows Biobanks to automatically upload their tissue data (numbers, types, formats, donor types, etc). The Achiever Medical System (AMS) supports these automatic uploads. This means that as soon as your tissues are available, they’re contributing to your Biobank’s ranking in targeted searches.

2.   Agree your terms and record them

Once you’re discussing a regular tissue supply arrangement you need to clearly agree your terms. Successful partnerships are always built on good communication and you should get all the difficult issues out in the open. That includes costs, timescales, types of samples and what happens if something goes wrong.

Also, you should agree how frequently you review these terms to ensure that both parties continue to benefit equally.  You then need to clearly document what you’ve agreed. This might be in a formal contract or a memorandum of agreement. And importantly both parties need it to be clearly understood by their teams. One thing that’s sometimes forgotten is agreeing targets. These can be sample numbers, donor recruitment, delivery timescales and don’t forget payment terms!

Our sample management system, Achiever Medical allows you to easily ring-fence samples for your collaborators using studies.  You can link these along with individual sample requests and dispatches against the collaborator’s institute record. Plus, you can record your contracts, targets and associated paperwork against the corresponding project or studies. All this helps maximise visibility of your relationship activity and current status to your own team.

3.   Make their wish-list visible to your Biobank team

Your team needs to know what your collaborators’ current requirements are and where they are in terms of fulfilment. If you have partnerships with multiple researchers, then having a simple view of each requirement is really important. Achiever Medical makes this very easy using applications. These can detail requirements for prospective collections or even specific lists of required sample aliquots. You need to ring-fence samples that you collect for a specific researcher – we use studies to manage this in Achiever Medical.

Remember that you should not upload the samples you have already “earmarked” for a customer to the UKCRC and Achiever Medical filters these automatically.

Researcher in lab sourcing samples using laptop

4.   Allow your researchers to browse your tissue stocks

There can be real benefits to having a public portal that functions as a “shop window” to showcase your samples. Researchers should be able to register and then securely browse the samples that you have available so they can select the ones they want and create an application themselves. This really helps the Biobank-researcher partnership to blossom as researchers have direct access to a live view of samples without having to go via a curator.

5.   Monitor performance against targets

An effective Biobank-researcher partnership is helped by both parties being aware of the benefits so it’s important to reinforce these by regularly reminding everyone how well your collaboration is working. Effective reporting of key performance indicators is key to this. Modern dashboards go a big step further by allowing you to analyse your information easily with a few clicks. This makes it easy for you to measure the benefits and to see what’s working really well. It also helps you spot areas that, perhaps, aren’t working as well as you’d wish. You can then adjust things to keep everyone happy.

Don’t forget to keep reviewing the partnership as it should evolve as both parties’ needs change, building on the successful relationship and increasing confidence.

About The Author

Gary Rooksby has over 25 years’ experience implementing and evolving corporate systems including manufacturing and quality systems for a range of major clients such as the MOD. For the last 18 years Gary has specialised in Sample Management Software with emphasis on process optimisation and data management. Gary works in partnership with clients and draws on his wealth of experience to help institutes and their teams to maximise the benefits from new and upgraded systems. Business needs are constantly evolving, and Gary loves the changing challenges. Gary always focuses on delivering value to the users, whether that is financial, scientific or simply easing workloads. He believes that the system is never an end in itself; it is a tool to help the users achieve their goals and that principle is always at the heart of any system or data designs.