Press release: Berlin’s new biobank for cutting-edge biomedical research celebrates topping-out ceremony

Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) and the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin held a topping-out ceremony for their new, ultra-modern biobank on 28 October 2015. The building at the Charité’s Virchow-Klinikum campus will be completed by April 2016 and have capacity for more than two million samples. BIH and Charité are investing 3.9 million Euro in the joint biobank, whose construction started in spring 2015.

To investigate the molecular causes of diseases, scientists need suitable biomaterials like blood, urine and tissue samples, as well as treatment data. These materials are collected, stored and processed in biobanks under controlled, quality-assured conditions.

"World-class research requires world-class conditions. Professional biobanks with excellent sample quality, a high degree of automation, continuous temperature monitoring, and data security are a key prerequisite for innovative biomedical research," says Dr. Georg Schütte, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. “With the new biobank, the Berlin Institute of Health will enjoy even better conditions for conducting successful, independent and internationally competitive research."

"Excellent infrastructures and general conditions are crucial for making biomedical research in Berlin desirable and sustainable," says Sandra Scheeres, Berlin’s Senator for Science. "For that reason, construction of the new biobank is a hugely important step for BIH, and thus for Berlin as well. The use of current and future biomaterial technologies will open up new potential for translational research. That’s why I am convinced that the efforts of BIH and Charité will be worth it." Applications that make use of the best technologies and high-quality biomaterials are especially groundbreaking in the identification of biomarkers, helping scientists gain new knowledge about the genesis and development of diseases, and thus advancing personalized medicine.

The Berlin Institute of Health’s biobank is being established at two sites in Berlin: at the Charité’s Virchow-Klinikum campus, where primarily biomaterials from healthcare and clinical research are collected and stored, and at the Charité’s Berlin-Buch campus, the home of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC), which is part of the Helmholtz Association. In Berlin-Buch, the focus is on long-term storage of liquid samples from large patient cohorts. The samples from both sites are available to BIH research projects.

"The wide range of storage options is a special feature of the new biobank at the Virchow-Klinikum campus,” explains Prof. Michael Hummel, head of the Charité’s BIH biobank. About a million samples can be stored at minus 80 degrees Celsius in a new, automated deep-freeze storage area. That makes the new biobank one of the largest in Germany. In addition, at least one million additional samples in liquid nitrogen (at temperatures down to minus 196 degrees Celsius) can also be included in the new BIH biobank. In addition to the sample storage areas, the BIH biobank has offices and laboratories for processing and analyzing the samples. “We see ourselves as service providers for research,” says Hummel, “and we also coordinate processes and support the analysis of biomaterials. We work closely with the BIH genomics, proteomics and metabolomics core facilities and with the bioinformatics core facility."

The new biobank will accept samples from Charité patients as well as from clinical studies of BIH research projects. Patient sample material and data are extremely well protected, as the new biobank uses a proven data protection system. Double pseudonymization (double coding) of samples and data makes re-identification of patients and test subjects impossible. Researchers may only use the samples and data for their projects after receiving the consent of the Charité’s ethics committee.