Late last month, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded Mayo Clinic $142 million over five years to serve as home for the 1-million-person Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) biobank.
Precision, or personalized medicine, is a model of care that customizes medical treatment to each individual. To illuminate differences and similarities in health all the way down to the level of an individual patient, researchers need to link data from a variety of sources. Some of those sources are physical, such as blood or urine samples, cells, tissues or organs removed in medical procedures. And some, such as electronic health records, mobile health data, and vital signs, are informational.
Typically, these data are spread out among different facilities and within different software or databases. Collecting and standardizing the information can slow down the research process.
The answer? A biobank.
A biobank is a facility designed to safely and privately hold health information and keep biological samples in optimal condition to enable research. For the Precision Medicine Initiative biobank, Mayo Clinic will store more than 35 million physical, or biological, samples expected to be gathered, and provide efficient, safe and privacy-protected methods for researchers to analyze these data.
Mayo Clinic’s biobanks consist of both targeted collections that focus on a single disease, such as bipolar disorder, and a general population collection consisting primarily of the clinic’s patients. It has served as a research resource for several years and has infrastructure and technology in place to quickly implement the policies and procedures associated with the initiative.
With the PMI Biobank, samples will be collected from volunteers across the U.S., and participants will have access to their personal data as well as summarized data from across the group. These samples will be cataloged and stored in automated, secured freezer complexes, primarily at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, but also at the Mayo Clinic biospecimen laboratory in Jacksonville, FL.
The NIH award will be administered by Mine Cicek, PhD, director of the Mayo Clinic Biospecimen Accessioning and Processing Core Laboratory, and Stephen Thibodeau, PhD, co-director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine Biorepositories Program, the David F. and Margaret T. Grohne Director of the Biorepositories Program for the Center for Individualized Medicine, and the William H. Donner Professor.
Cicek notes that the highly automated Mayo Clinic Bioservices facility allows for efficient and accurate handling and processing of specimens, which will include robotic systems to separate, label and store biospecimen components, including automated DNA extraction.