In 2013, IBBL (Integrated Biobank of Luxembourg) managed to substantially increase the number of samples in its collection by attacking from 2 angles: on a national level the biobank has launched 2 new cancer studies while increasing recruitment on existing studies, and on an international level IBBL has signed and executed new service contracts for large clinical trials and research consortia.
Reaching beyond the borders has been a strategy that paid off. After signing a contract with the Breast International Group (BIG) and the European Organisation for the Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) the previous year, in spring 2013, IBBL received a shipment of over 50,000 samples from a large clinical trial, developed and coordinated by these two organisations. The blood and tissue samples collected from breast cancer patients in 111 European institutions will be stored centrally in IBBL’s freezers for up to 20 years. In 2013, IBBL began working on another multi-national project with the EU Joint Programme for Neurodegenerative Disease (JPND). In addition to providing sample collection kits to multiple hospitals all over Europe, IBBL has developed a web-based “virtual biobank”, where all sample-related data is managed and easily accessible to consortium members.
In total, IBBL has signed 8 new service contracts for sample collection, processing or storage in 2013 with both new and returning clients. These service contracts contributed substantially to the increase in the number of biological samples from 67,000 in 2012 to 195,000 in 2013.
IBBL’s visibility has been further increased beyond Luxembourg and even beyond Europe through two programmes endorsed by the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER). 90 laboratories from 24 countries participated in IBBL’s 2013 Proficiency Testing programme, which enables biobanks to assess the quality of their processing and testing methods. Similarly, the Principles of Biobanking continuing education course is also endorsed by ISBER and attracted students and professionals from multiple countries, like Egypt and Australia to Luxembourg. Run by IBBL and the University of Luxembourg, the 3 week course provides both theoretical and practical sessions to cover all aspects of running a high quality biobank.
Two new oncology studies to improve quality of life
At the same time as investing in international partnerships, IBBL remains active in Luxembourg as part of the Personalised Medicine Consortium (PMC). In addition to their existing research projects on lung and colon cancer, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease, IBBL and its PMC partners launched two new studies in 2013. With the support of Luxembourg’s urologists, the first study aims to facilitate prostate cancer diagnosis and reduce the need for multiple prostate biopsies. The second new study is led by Dr Stefan Rauh, oncologist at the Centre Hospitalier Emile Mayrisch, and is co-funded by IBBL and the Fondation Cancer. The goal of this second study is to evaluate whether an interactive assessment device can improve the management of chemotherapy side-effects and reduce hospitalisation. This project in particular illustrates how IBBL and the PMC strive to improve patients’ quality of life by personalising not only diagnosis and treatment but also patient care.
To grow its partner and client base, IBBL has not just focused on the quality of its samples and services but also on its distinctiveness. As Dr Catherine Larue, CEO of IBBL, puts it, “a key focus of 2013 has been the investment in areas that make IBBL stand out from other biobanks, such as biospecimen and microbiome research”. As one of very few biobanks, IBBL carries out internal research on the best ways to collect, process or store biospecimens. The results of these research projects can then directly be applied to IBBL’s laboratory procedures to ensure samples are of the highest quality. In addition, these collaborative efforts with both industry and academic partners have led to multiple publications in scientific journals.
Finally, IBBL has set out to become the leading biobank for microbiome research, an area that has been gaining traction as several diseases have been linked to the microflora in our gut. In this respect, the biobank has spent a lot of effort on the development and validation of automated stool processing methods, as these samples are extensively used in gut microbiome research. Moreover, IBBL was chosen to organise the next International Human Microbiome Congress in spring 2015, which is expected to draw up to 1,000 experts from all over the world to Luxembourg.
An electronic version of the annual report is available for download using the link below.