Biobanking Quality Control and Centralization & Biospecimen Collection for Genomic Research

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Ann Nguyen:

Hi. This is Ann Nguyen, Senior Associate Conference Producer with Cambridge Healthtech Institute, here for another podcast for the 2016 Leaders in Biobanking Congress, happening September 7-9 in Baltimore, Maryland. We are delighted to be chatting with one of our longtime speakers and a returning podcast interviewee, Dr. Andrew Brooks, Chief Scientific Officer of BioProcessing Solutions Alliance and Associate Professor of Genetics at Rutgers University. Andy, thank you for being here for us once again.

Andrew Brooks:

My pleasure, Ann. Thanks for having me.

Ann Nguyen:

We last interviewed in 2010. You discussed quality control and standardization in biobanking. How have the related resources at Rutgers evolved over the last 6 years? How have your goals and activities changed?

Andrew Brooks:

That's a great question. The topics of conversation and what people are doing around quality control and standardization of biobanking actually goes well beyond what we're doing here at RUCDR, or for the BioProcessing Solutions Alliance, or at BioStorage, where we all work together to create those standards. A lot of the technologies that we talked about in 2010 have become, really, a standard for how people are looking at primary biomaterials.

I think what's really evolved are some new and exciting tools that allow us not only to look at standards, or metrics of quality for primary biomaterials, and looking at pre-processing variables, or collection variables, but also at the different analytes that people are looking at.

For example, with the growth of liquid biopsy samples, the way that we QC molecular components, or even protein components of cell-free compartments like plasma and serum, have very unique approaches versus looking at DNA, or RNA from cellular material such whole blood, or tissue. A lot of the concepts that were developed early on in 2010 are continuing to expand, but we are applying new metrics to different kinds of biomaterials. I think we're going to see that continue to evolve as people are trying to get more and more out of every sample that's deposited into a biobank.

Ann Nguyen:

What challenges persist and what new ones have arisen when it comes to collecting and storing biospecimens for genomic research and clinical application?

Andrew Brooks:

Unfortunately, we have new challenges every day. As we just talked about, there are different metrics for storage and temperature control for different biomaterials that have different levels of sensitivity, if you will, or have different levels of lability. On the side of cell storage and processing, or cryopreservation, there are new technologies to help automate and manage samples and liquid nitrogen storage, which didn't exist before, that we're starting to apply to very sensitive, precious samples like induced pluripotent stem cells and other stem cell populations where very small changes in temperature could have big biological effects.

When it comes to storage, the implementation of different automated storage units that we're using for Brooks and others have made a huge impact not only on our ability to better manage samples, but also to keep them at constant temperatures during sample handling. I think a lot of the challenges are how do we manage and deal with larger numbers of samples and LN2 and mechanical storage. By applying these new automation technologies, or continuing to develop automation technologies, we can handle them more efficiently, but keep a much tighter regulation over temperature.

Although this is really critical, obviously for clinical applications, it's equally as critical for research applications because the way that we're consenting subjects now for research applications, it's such that we can repurpose, or use these samples for the development of diagnostics and other applications instead of just for discovery. We hold all samples to the same high standards, whether they're collected for research, or for clinical applications because of the utility that we're using these samples for now with the way studies are being designed and consented.

Ann Nguyen:

One of your two presentations, this one on September 8, will focus on “The Importance of Centralized and Harmonized Biobanking to Support Precision Medicine Initiatives across Government, Academic and Industrial Initiatives”. It's a big topic, so you'll cover a lot. What is the main theme you'd like the audience to learn?

Andrew Brooks:

Yeah, it is a big topic. There is only so much you can cover in one talk. My goal for that presentation is really to expand on what I just commented on. That is creating collections, processes, and quality metrics for using samples for multiple applications.

The methods that we apply to clinical samples and research samples are different, based on regulatory oversight and other applications, at least in some labs and some programs. Really, the focus is going to be on how do you assess your research samples? How do you create collection schemes and processing schemes that are going to allow us to use these samples for a variety of applications along with clinical development and other things?

Some of the technologies and methods that I plan on talking about really focus on quality control and how those link in with best practices. If you look at best practices, they say you have to have quality assurance, good quality control, but I think there's a bit of a disconnect in how you link those up and what are the right standards to be applying? What are some of the technologies? Really, it's also going to be an overview as to what's available out there.

The one thing that's great about CHI meetings, in my opinion, is we go to learn. We go to see and get an accelerated exposure to new technologies and applications. I'm sure that a lot of people who can sit there and figure it out on their own are going to benefit from just seeing what people are doing and what standards are developing. This should be a really good exposure for people that are coming to this year's meeting, Leaders in Biobanking, to learn about some new technologies and how they might directly apply to their program in this instance about how they link best practices and quality control for their collections.

Ann Nguyen:

That is definitely the intent. I know you've got so much more to share. We're eager to learn a lot from you soon. Just for now, for this interview, thank you, Andy, for your time and for, of course, being such a big supporter of this biobanking meeting since the beginning.

Andrew Brooks:

Thank you. I look forward to the meeting.

Ann Nguyen:

That was Andrew Brooks of BioProcessing Solutions Alliance and Rutgers. He'll be a speaker twice, a panelist, and a chairperson at the Leaders in Biobanking Congress, running September 7-9 in Baltimore.

To learn more from Dr. Brooks, go to www.BiobankingCongress.com for registration details and enter the keycode “Podcast”.

This is Ann Nguyen. Thank you for listening.