In preparing for next week’s International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER) Annual Meeting, I recall some of the key takeaways from March’s Biospecimen Research Network Symposium "Advancing Cancer Research Through Biospecimen Science". The most startling came from Dr. Anna Barker’s opening remarks in which she noted that "of the 350 million specimens collected in the United States, only 30 percent of them were of a quality standard high enough for research purposes." And, we’ve actually heard other experts say that the number of viable samples could be even lower.
What if only 30 percent of the emails we sent everyday actually left our outboxes? What if our metro trains came only 30 percent of the time they were supposed to? That would make for a very unproductive world.
NCI’s Office of Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research (OBBR) brought together leaders in the field to discuss the challenges and recommend solutions. A number of the symposium speakers highlighted the variance in quality and study results across institutions and handling scenarios all underscoring the need for standard operating procedures. Carolyn Compton, Director, OBBR, outlined NCI’s role in elevating quality and Elizabeth Hammond, Professor of Pathology, University of Utah, presented a strong call to action for job aides, standard training, sharing of research, developing financial incentives, and implementing a biorepository “Goodhousekeeping Seal of Approval. ”
I hope the ISBER meeting could bring more focus to these calls to action in a global context. I am looking forward to discussing how international harmonization strategies can contribute in raising specimen quality. I am also very much looking forward to discussing communication strategies for engaging patients who are critical variables in the research equation. Most importantly I am looking forward to understanding how the global community can advance biorepository efforts to in turn accelerate medical solutions.
Check back next week as my colleague Kate Blenner and I bring you highlights from the ISBER meeting.
Melissa Stevens, FasterCures Director of Special Projects