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What is a biobank?


A biobank is an organized collection of biological samples and associated health information stored for research purposes.

YLOG Semi-automated storage system for paraffin-embedded tissue (Biobank Graz) Conventionnal storage of paraffin-embedded tissue (Institute of Pathology & Biobank, Graz) Storage of frozen biological samples (Institute of Pathology & Biobank Graz)


Typical biological samples stored include tissue, body fluids (such as blood, serum, blood, urine, or fluids from punctures), cells and related derivatives (RNA, DNA, or proteins). Usually, these samples are associated with clinical data (like blood pressure or lung volume) and information regarding personal lifestyle (sport habits or smoking behaviour).


The purpose of biobanks is to give researchers access to samples and data to support medical research and the development of new diagnostics, biomarkers and pharmaceutical treatments. Particularly in the era of personalized medicine these biologial resources are vital for medical innovations.


Biobank collections can be dedicated to specific patient groups (e.g. with a specific cancer diagnosis) or whole populations.


In Austria the large biobanks are located at medical universities. They represent disease-oriented biobanks as they collect samples and data within the context of clinical care. Biological materials found in such biobanks are collected from patients and represent residual material of samples taken as part of an exploration or a clinical follow-up. Samples for clinical studies and diagnostic purposes have been collected throughout the history of medicine.


Video: Wie kann ich persönlich bei der Entwicklung neuer Therapien und Medikamente helfen? (by Med Uni Graz)


View video about biobanks (in ENGLISH)>>    


Storing and connecting medical samples and data raises legal and ethical questions. For addressing these questions, we assess public engagement as important. What are citizens' opinions on biobanks? What is expected regarding data protection and distribution of possible outcomes, profits and risks?

These questions are currently addressed in discussion meetings, so-called Citizen-Expert-Panels. These panels provide a forum for discussion and a room for exchange between citizens and experts in the field of biobanking.


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