Biobanks are the bridge between researchers and patients. Your job is to deliver high-quality biological specimens from willing participants to expert scientists. You are the conduit between those who want to help advance scientific knowledge by donating their precious samples and those who urgently need them to further their valuable research and discoveries. You are sitting on a potential goldmine of scientific insight. But if researchers and industry are not requesting and using your samples then your Biobank can’t realise its potential. As a Biobank Manager you should always be asking yourself ‘Is your Biobank really tuned into what industry wants?’.
Understand your market and your customers
To make sure that your Biobank really is tuned in to what industry wants – you need to know your market.
There is a lot of choice out there for industry and researchers. And the way we buy, communicate with each other and do business has changed a lot over the last 5 years.
People expect high-quality products and services – and quickly!
Before your Biobank can be successful, you need to have a clear vision of what you are trying to deliver and to who. Without clarity of purpose and an understanding of what you offer, you will never know if you are successful. You could end up wasting a lot of time, money and resources.
Do you know what your customers expect and how they want to do business with you?
By clearly identifying your goals and ideal customers, you can define key objectives and targets that you can measure. This is something that you should be constantly monitoring and reviewing as markets, legislation and customer behaviour change.
Is your Biobank service turning heads or turning people off?
Where you source your samples and the data that comes with them is important so you can make sure they are fit for purpose – from an ethical, storage and usage perspective.
But having the right types and variety of biospecimens for your target audience is only the beginning.
You need to make it easy for people to do business with you. For this you need the mechanisms in place for your customers to search your latest sample library, view details about your holdings and make requests.
And you must be responsive. You should aim to fulfil any requests you receive in as short a timeframe as possible. Be clear – and realistic – about your service level agreements and turnaround times for different types of request.
If it takes you 4 weeks to fulfil a request for samples that you have in your Biobank, then you may have already lost business.
“Why would I wait 4 weeks for samples when I can get samples in 2 days from a commercial provider? Although the samples are 3 times more expensive from the commercial provider, I know when I am going to get them and what I am going to receive.”
Know your competition
The first thing to realise is that as a Biobank you are in business.
Yes, you heard right – you are in business. And when you are in business you have competition. If you don’t know who your competition is and what they offer you need to find out – and quickly.
Why would industry and researchers come to you rather than well-established biological specimen suppliers? These could be existing hospital or government-sponsored Biobanks or even commercial biospecimen suppliers and brokers.
Knowing your competition will help you make sure that you are differentiating your Biobank to attract and retain your customers.
And it’s not just about the price!
Get your Biobank noticed
Your competitors will be using various marketing methods to promote their products and services. You may not be able to compete on budget but there are many things you can do for free or relatively cheaply.
In earlier blogs we discussed how you can advertise your Biobank on industry-specific websites and join industry bodies such as the UKCRC Tissue Directory and BBMRI-ERIC.
Get yourself out there by attending industry-specific events and networking. These not only help you to make valuable connections but also to uncover the latest trends and share best-practice.
Also, there is no better advertising than customer recommendations. People talk and if they are talking positively about your Biobank this is ‘money can’t buy’ marketing.
Strive for quality
You should be documenting and evidencing your quality criteria, control measures and results. This is important whenever you are receiving, storing and processing your samples. Documented standard operating procedures (SOPs) are a start. Even better, you should underpin these by using advanced software systems such as sample tracking and laboratory information management systems (LIMS). These systems can help ensure you capture and process your data consistently and provide analyses and evidence on the outcomes.
There are numerous accreditations available to make sure you have quality procedures at every stage of your samples’ journey. The most recent accreditation is ‘ISO 20387:2018 Biotechnology — Biobanking — General requirements for biobanking’ which is specifically aimed at Biobanks.
When deciding on accreditations make sure you choose the one most aligned with your business objectives. And once you get it ensure everybody knows – advertise your assets!
A final thought about making your Biobank really tuned in to what industry wants
As a Biobank you spend a lot of time and effort sourcing, processing and storing high-quality samples. However, at the heart of your business you are offering, and delivering, a very valuable service. As such it is equally important for you to focus on how you deliver that service. This covers everything from understanding who your target customer is through to successfully fulfilling requests in a timely manner. How you deliver is as important as what you deliver.
- ISO 20387:2018 standard – https://www.iso.org/standard/67888.html
- UKCRC Tissue Directory – https://biobankinguk.org/
- BBMRI-ERIC – http://www.bbmri-eric.eu/