A national biobank

Many fields of medicine are moving towards more personalized patient care, in other words attempting to find the most suitable therapies and medicinal products for each individual patient. The development of such therapies requires close links between sample materials, research and patient care.

The Finnish Hematology Registry and Clinical Biobank (FHRB Biobank) was established to support research into hematological disorders seeking to discover new methods for the better prevention, earlier and more accurate diagnosis, and personalized treatment and follow-up of hematological disorders.

Hematological disorders and related research

Hematological malignancies are a diverse group of disorders. The mechanisms contributing to the development of these disorders are still poorly understood. Certain leukemias that are resistant to current therapies present a particularly difficult challenge.

Molecular medicine is expected to provide solutions to these problems, but identifying new molecules relevant to a particular disorder and developing targeted treatments still requires a great deal of research. Biobank research can speed up the work of identifying such molecular factors.

The work of the FHRB Biobank includes:

- Collecting biological sample material and related data on the patient’s disorder, treatment and follow-up; and
- Storing the samples and data and making them available for research in the field of hematology; and
- Safeguarding sample donors’ privacy and right to information.

Sample processing and accessibility

The samples are collected by the hospitals treating the patients and processed for storage in the laboratory of the Finnish Red Cross Blood Service. The processed samples are transported for storage in the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM). All the samples are frozen at -70°C before being transferred to gas phase liquid nitrogen for long term storage at -180°C.

The complete and careful collection of samples and related data is important for ensuring that the scientific research based on the biobank samples is of the highest quality. The FHRB Biobank has defined standardized procedures for the collection of material and transparent principles for the use of samples, and given unambiguous instructions for the researchers. With the biobank’s permission, coded biobank samples and related data can be made available to researchers. Research permits are awarded by the FHRB Steering Group on the basis of an evaluation performed by the FHRB Scientific Advisory Board.

A national biobank for Finland

Biobank activities in Finland are regulated by the Biobank Act (688/2012), which entered into force on 1 September 2013. This Act provides a framework for the utilization of human biological samples in medical research while securing the rights of the sample donors. The Biobank Act also enables the utilization of samples in future studies that have not yet been planned at the time of sample collection. In Finland, operations governed by the Biobank Act are directed and supervised by the Finnish Medicines Agency Fimea, which is also responsible for maintaining the National Biobank Register.