BBMRI - Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure

The Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure (BBMRI) was set up in 2008 to coordinate a large scale network to share access to available biological samples in Europe. This infrastructure will cover major biobanks, molecular resources and biocomputing centres to ensure that the samples are linked to existing databases, scientific literature and statistical expertise.

Biological resources are considered the essential raw material for the advancement of biotechnology, human health and R&D in life sciences. If well connected, catalogued and accessible, biobanks provide a crucial resource for academic and industry-based research to treat and prevent human diseases.

Building on existing infrastructures, resources and technology, BBMRI will allow the identification of disease genes and help define the relationships between genetics, the environment and lifestyle. A sharper biology-based definition of disease categories will enhance the development of more effective treatments, reduce undesired and unintended side effects and improve clinical trials design.

This unprecedented network could allow people to become aware of their potential to develop specific conditions, opening the possibility of personalised medicine (programmes and treatments). At the same time, BBMRI will support policy and scientific momentum to harmonise ethical, legal and quality standards across Europe.

BBMRI is one of the 44 initiatives selected for funding by the European Strategic Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI). The forum brings together senior science policy officials representing the member state ministers, and a senior policy official form the EU Commission. They have prepared a Roadmap that identifies pan-European Research Infrastructures (RI) of crucial importance to strengthen the European Research Area, in particular for capacity building.

These projects have received financial support within the EU's Seventh Framework Programme for research and technological development and demonstration. It will cover the initial set up stage that should allow the different initiatives to define and develop mechanisms that can provide the necessary funding after the preparatory phase. 5€ million have been granted to the BBMRI to lay out the construction and operational process that will make its continuation possible.

The members of BBMRI have started preparing an inventory of European resources. They have identified a total of 92 biobanks so far. The biggest challenges they will face in the set up of the network will have to do with the harmonisation of policies and standards, the establishment of a data protection systems and the definition of the legal, ethical and financial governance of this new research infrastructure.

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