, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 202-213
Date: 09 Sep 2008

Biobanking

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Abstract

Biobanks, more formally known as biological resource centers (BRCs), form an “unsung” yet critical component of the infrastructures for scientific research, industry and conservation, without which much of the current scientific activity involving microbial cultures and cell-lines would be effectively impossible. BRCs are de facto depositories of “biological standards” holding taxonomic and other reference strains on which much of the associated published science and industrial standards are built and upon which some significant international commercial and ethical issues rely. The establishment and maintenance of BRCs is a knowledge- and skill-rich activity that in particular requires careful attention to the implementation of reliable preservation technologies and appropriate quality assurance to ensure that recovered cultures and other biological materials perform in the same way as the originally isolated culture or material. There are many types of BRC, which vary both in the kinds of material they hold and in their functional role. All BRCs are expected to provide materials and information of an appropriate quality for their intended use and work to standards relevant to those applications. There are important industrial, biomedical, and conservation issues that can only be addressed through effective and efficient operation of BRCs in the long term. This requires a high degree of expertise in the maintenance and management of collections of biological materials at ultra-low temperatures, or as freeze-dried material, to secure their long-term integrity and relevance for future research, development, and conservation.