The largest storage bank for human biospecimens in the southern hemisphere has opened in Sydney today to provide medical researchers with samples to use in their disease-busting efforts.

Using the $12 million NSW Health Statewide Biobank researchers will be able to able to deposit and access samples in -196ºC cryogenic vats and temperature-controlled storage units with a state-of-the-art robotics technology. The data obtained could revolutionise medicine and speed up the time it takes to get discoveries from laboratories to patients, NSW Minister for Health and Medical Research Brad Hazzard said.

“The Biobank will house more than three million human samples including DNA, tissue, blood and tumour cells which researchers can use to unlock the puzzle of disease,” Hazzard said.

“It will save our researchers years of time that would have otherwise been spent collecting samples and will enable greater participation in even more international studies.”

The Biobank will provide researchers with access to the largest collections of human samples in Australia to help them improve the way medical conditions are detected, diagnosed and treated.

Understanding people’s complex genetic make-up and how mutations cause disease is one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of our time, and biobanks are vital to advances in knowledge.

Members of the public can contribute to the Biobank’s stores and are encouraged to donate tissue samples through their doctors, NSW Health’s Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said.

“Adults in many countries throughout Europe, the UK and Asia donate DNA and other biospecimens to biobanks to help advance medicine. There are many biobanking research projects people can contribute to and participants don’t need to be ill to donate, so speak to your doctor if you want to help,” Chant said. 

Other features of the facility include a fully automated barcode tracking system for traceability and custody control of samples, links to other health data sets through the Centre for Health Record Linkage, a laboratory information management system and automated DNA extraction.

The opening of the high-tech facility on the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital campus is part of the NSW Government’s $1.25 billion investment over four years in medical research.



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