Dateline Asia: Travels with Andy

March 12th, 2015 in President Messages

President’s Message

By: Andy Zaayenga, ISBER President 2014-2015


“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

– Helen Keller

These inspiring words spoken by a woman disabled by seemingly insurmountable physical handicaps told the world how incredible goals may be attained in collaboration with others.

It brings to mind one of the greatest benefits of our ISBER society – the collegiality and willingness to collaborate of our members. Similarly to Helen Keller the biobanking community has exceptional tasks to surmount which can only be accomplished with the collaboration of many.

On a recent business trip I took the opportunity to reach out to ISBER colleagues in Japan, Korea and Singapore. I endeavor to visit ISBER members and repositories wherever I travel to more fully understand the challenges and successes of operating a repository. The responses were amazing. Every member I contacted invited me to visit! It made for a very busy schedule as there were twelve groups in eight days, along with business appointments.

At each facility I was invited to give a presentation on ISBER including all the programs and tools available to our community. In turn each organization gave me wonderfully in-depth insights into their operations and goals. I am most grateful for the chance to really get to know our members personally. There is no substitute for spending time together in order to gain a better understanding of what our members are doing and how ISBER may better serve you.

We spoke of many topics, which mirror much of what we discuss at our annual meetings and in the forums.  The conversations we had included:

  • Sustainability & funding
  • Specimen quality measurement and assurance
  • Regional legislation
  • How to drive increased collaboration
  • Best Practices
  • Translation of ISBER documents and tools into local language
  • Long term stability studies required to increase our domain knowledge
  • Accreditation
  • Ownership & access to samples
  • ISBER International Repository Locator & how it can foster utilization
  • Automation pathways
  • How to better serve “non-human” repositories
  • Efficient use of storage space
  • Retention policies
  • Standards
  • Tools to be considered to enable the future (mechanical, software, documentation)
  • Bioethics & ELSI
  • Consenting policies & mechanisms
  • Benefit sharing including insuring biorepositories get credit in scientific papers
  • Connecting regional ISBER members in focused forums
  • Connecting all ISBER members more effectively

I thought you might enjoy seeing photos from most of the visits, along with a short description of the repository. I apologize for not having all the names but I’ve tried to include the members you’ll probably see at our annual meeting.

Thank you again to all the members who so graciously invited me to visit and spent so much time in discussing how we may all collaborate more effectively. I appreciate you as colleagues, and now as friends! I particularly thank Dr. Koh Furuta who assisted in arranging the busy Japan schedule.

Thank you to all of our ISBER members for your support of our society. I look forward to seeing you at ISBER 2015 in Phoenix, and perhaps in your facility!


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