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Home » Clinical Trials » How the work of biobanks can contribute to important medical advances

Dr Nicola Miller

Co-Director of Cancer Biobank, University of Galway

Professor Seán Hynes

Professor in Pathology, University of Galway

Biobanks store medical samples from donor patients. They play a pivotal role in advancing clinical research in oncology and many other diseases.

To better understand the underlying molecular processes of cancer, cardiovascular, infectious, metabolic and other chronic diseases, researchers need to analyse samples from patients. Biobanks are repositories of meticulously collected and preserved patient specimens, including tissues, blood and genetic material. They serve as invaluable resources for scientists and clinicians.  

Safe and confidential preservation in biobanks 

Biobanks enable the study of diverse challenges and aid in the development of targeted therapies, personalised medicine and early detection, which can speed up research. This is translational research in action.  

Remembering the patient behind every sample 

Anyone who donates to a biobank is made aware that, while they will not benefit directly from this research (samples are anonymised to protect patient confidentiality), their involvement can contribute to medical advances. “We never forget that behind every sample is a patient,” says Professor Seán Hynes, Professor in Pathology at the University of Galway. “When someone voluntarily consents to giving samples and data to our biobank, they are performing a massively valuable and selfless act.” 

We never forget that behind
every sample is a patient.

Professor Seán Hynes

Naturally, good leadership is vital for a biobank to operate efficiently. Dr Nicola Miller, Co-Director of the Cancer Biobank led from the University of Galway says: “Our commitment to quality builds trust among researchers, collaborators, funders, regulators and especially participants. We care deeply about patient engagement, and we ensure that participants know exactly what they are contributing to and why the work of the cancer biobank is so important. Better engagement means better samples and, ultimately, better research leading to treatment and cures.” 

“Our cancer biobank supports the validation of experimental findings and accelerates the translation of lab discoveries into clinical applications — not only here in the Institute for Clinical Trials at University of Galway but as part of ongoing research throughout Europe. In essence, cancer biobanks are indispensable tools in the fight against cancer and other diseases, fostering innovation and directly improving patient outcomes.” 

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