Legal, Ethical, and Scientific Challenges in International Biobanking
Edited by Timo Minssen, Janne R Herrmann and Jens Schovsbo
Only a few publications are available about the expiration date of biological sample collections. In contrast, the expiration date of informed consent was discussed in multiple different research articles. This book chapter discusses the term “expiration date” in the context of biobanking from various different perspectives: financial, ethical, and legal. In addition, we elucidate the impact of sample quality, data availability and the analytical methods on the life time of biospecimens. From daily experience at Biobank Graz, one of the largest repositories of clinical samples in Europe, we derived that the lifetime of biomaterials depends on five main factors. These five factors are: (1) collection strategy (see above), (2) sample quality, (3) storage conditions and duration and sample type, (4) availability of data, and (5) the intended application. Thus, the “expiration date” of a sample is not one fixed date, but rather is flexible and strongly dependent on the intended application and on the financial resources of the respective biobank. In fact, the most probable reason for termination of biobanks is financial issues (in most cases a lack of funding). However, access to long-term funding for biobanks is still a problem and strategies to recover biobanking costs are emerging. The use of a well-functioning and expensive infrastructure for only one collection strategy is unusual. The considerable part of biobanks have opted for diversity and run both disease-based and population-based collections. Usually the collections for retrospective and epidemiological studies do not have any limitation in time. Therefore the research usage of biospecimens is unspecified in time and matter. Until now, the expiration date for a biobank was never a point of discussion. In this context, a very peculiar question is: How much is the cost of termination of a biobank? The calculations made at Biobank Graz should be considered as a starting point in future discussions.
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