Brett J. Davis, Global Marketing Manager, IBM Information-Based Medicine
While some of IBM's work to transform healthcare system is about eliminating paperwork and reducing medical errors, biobanking, one of the fronts I'm working on, aims to empower researchers with unprecedented access to critical molecular and clinical information to accelerate a more personalized paradigm of medicine.
Biobanks -- sometimes called biorepositories or tissue banks -- are a critical resource for 21st century clinical research and medicine because they naturally generate lots of genotypic and phenotypic data. The basic gist of it is this: combining the wealth of genetic and molecular information now emerging with patient records and other clinical records will help researchers to understand disease at the molecular level, ultimately leading to innovative new personalized therapies and treatments.
Biobanks are actual repositories of collected human tissue -- blood, bone, serum, or sometimes just individuals' DNA. But they become real valuable because of the clinical (or phenotypic) information captured about the patient and the molecular data generated from the sample. When this data is integrated in a robust, secure fashion – or a clinical genomics environment - researchers can use biobanks for many different purposes, such as hunting for the underlying genetic processes that cause different diseases or identifying molecular markers that may provide early warning signs.
The ultimate goal of biobanking and clinical genomics is to develop innovative, new targeted diagnostics and therapies to get the right treatment to the right person at the right time. This vision of "personalized medicine" is a sharp departure of the current model in which medicines are developed for broad use in general patient populations. But it’s a good example of how information technologies will dramatically improve our health and well being by impacting both clinical research and clinical care. In fact, IBM believes in this vision so strongly that we were one of the founders of the Personalized Medicine Coalition.
What's more, while the whole field of biobanking is really just starting to unfold, IBM is very active in it. We've hosted three World Wide Biobank Summits in 2004 and 2005 in France, Sweden and the US that attracted hundreds of thought leaders to address the challenges this community is facing. And we are working on another one to be held in Washington D.C. this November focusing specifically on biobanks that support cancer research. (For more information,check out the National Biospecimen Network that the National Cancer Institute is working on.)
And we're helping organizations such as the Karoliska Institutet build Sweden's first IT-enabled biobank.
course, we've barely scratched the surface about the importance of
biobanking in 21st century medicine, but this is meant to be a brief
introduction. I'd be delighted to field your comments or questions
about biobanking, so please fee free to add them. If you’d like to
learn more about biobanking, these two white papers are a good place
Biobanks:Accelerating molecular medicine (PDF)
Biobanks: Collaborating for cures (PDF)
For continuing coverage, Genome News Network has a section on biobanks. And The Personal Genome and the Genetics and Public Health Blog are two of the more interesting blogs that cover genomic issues.