ISBER illustrates how accreditation in biobanking can provide a competitive advantage 

Industry News May 15, 2024
ISBER illustrates how accreditation in biobanking can provide a competitive advantage 
NATA team

By Gillian Treloar, NATA Deputy Sector Manager, Legal & Clinical 

Australia is leading the way when it comes to the foundational elements of the emerging biobanking industry.

This was the feedback from many at the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories’s (ISBER) annual conference. 

Having NATA representatives reviewing and developing standards on ISO committees, including the ISO Biobanking 20387 Standard, has contributed to Australia punching above its weight globally in biobanking, along with Australia’s strong infrastructure to support these standards.  

Biobanking Victoria was confirmed as the first NATA-accredited biobank in Australia back in 2022. Which makes it fitting that the 25th edition of ISBER’s Conference was held in Victoria for the first time. 350 of the world’s foremost authorities on biobanking descended on Melbourne’s Convention and Exhibition Centre in April. Over the four days of discussion into the future of biobanking, we established colleague connections within Asia, Europe and the US, as well as strengthening those that have been made through the ISO committee working on the review of ISO 20387. 

Precision medicine is growing in importance and the vital role biobanks play in this field was highlighted throughout the conference. High standards and best practices of biobanking are the first steps for successful precision medicine clinical trials. Ultimately, biobanking creates the link between the patients themselves and the ability to deliver precision medicine.  

We became immersed in a number of interesting presentations over the four days, from de-extinction efforts and the work of Professor Andrew Pask on the Tasmanian Tiger, or the Thylacine to the role of DNA in biobanking to identify criminals and missing persons, Louise Newell, National Crime Agency.   

NATA’s own lead accreditation specialist in biobanking, Brodie Quine, chaired one of the roundtable events during ISBER’s four days in Melbourne, focusing on the role accreditation plays in the industry. One of the learnings she took was that many biobanks were unaware that accreditation could be included within applications for grants from state and federal government-funding bodies. As Helen Tsimiklis, from Biobanking Victoria also notes: “Biobanking accreditation gives us confidence in our practices”. 

Representatives from international and domestic biobanks were well-represented throughout the roundtable discussions, including delegates from USA, UK and Asia.  

One Australian session looking at tissue triage of rare diseases came from Louise Ludlow, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, who was partnered by former ISBER President for the past 10 years, Dan Catchpoole, Kids Research, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Australia.  

Catchpoole also sits on NATA’s AAC for biobanking and explained that accreditation is only going to become more important within the field:

“Biobanking is vital to tissue handling. Biorepositories that can provide tissue collection in systematic ways, and have good quality structures in place for samples, including provenance of biological material and associated data, which is performed ethically, will reap rewards. If we look at Covid, those biobanks that were able to maintain the link from tissue collection through to data, in a competent way, did very well.  

“Quality outcomes are achieved through accreditation, and the benefits for society of having comparable samples that meet an international standard, will mean that we’re in a better position to potentially collaborate globally and solve complex problems in the future.”  

The NATA team had interesting discussions at our Booth 40, with international biobanks already accredited to ISO Biobanking 20387, along with a number who were interested in the process. It was noted that other jurisdictions are starting to introduce requirements for biobanks to become accredited for grant funding, however Australia has not reached this tipping point yet. 

Given that we’re already seeing big pharmaceutical organisations state that they need accreditation to ISO 15189 / 17025 standards, especially something we’ve witnessed in Pathology in Australia, many are expecting this to translate to ISO Biobanking 20387 in the near future.  

NATA remains one of only two Accreditation Bodies globally that is recognised for having biobanking on its Mutal Recognition Agreement (MRA). While there is still education needed about the value of accreditation for biobanks, it’s clear that those that have moved first, like Cornell Veterinary Biobank and Biobanking Victoria, have seen a massive competitive advantage; particularly with ensuring standardised outcomes and collaborations.  

Daniel Catchpoole and others will be presenting at Accreditation Matters 2024 on the value and opportunities within Biobanking – click here to register today 

NATA will also be presenting at the NSW Health Statewide Biobank seminar series in August 2024 on these topics. 

The next ISBER Conference will be held in Montreal 13-16 May 2025