ISBER 2019 Regional Meeting, Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel, The Depot, November 3-5, 2019, Minneapolis, USA

January 8th, 2020 in Conference Feature

SUMMARY REPORT
January 7, 2020

Set against a themed tribute to the famous Minneapolitan Bob Dylan, the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER) hosted 300 participants for the 2019 ISBER Americas Regional Meeting from November 3 to 5 at the Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel, the Depot in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Theme of the meeting was “Times They are a Changin: Biobanks of the Future” and was chaired by Dr. Allison Hubel, Mr. William Schleif and Dr. Rita Lawlor.

In keeping with the theme, the regional program focused on the evolving composition of biobanks and their progressive involvement in research. Biobanks now encompass much of the developing digital world and the regional meeting reflected this by bringing together key speakers and stakeholders to share global perspectives on the current and prospective states of biobanking and focusing on digital biobanking and the collection of data for research from wearable technology. Biobanks have also expanded to develop living biobanks of cells, disease models, microbiomes and reprogrammed cells and challenges in maintaining these biobanks for future banking were extensively discussed and highlighted with the presentation of the addendum to the fourth edition of the ISBER Best Practices. This addendum builds upon previous editions of the Best Practices of 2005, 2008, 2012, and 2018 and focuses on the liquid nitrogen (LN2)-based cryogenic storage of living biological and environmental specimens for research and clinical use. Other key components of precision medicine and global health, such as sustainability, data sharing, and biospecimen quality, were also presented in significant depth.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong, CEO and founder of 54Gene, provided an enlightened perspective on building a pan-African biobank to promote genomic diversity in population health research. The opening symposium also included presentations from community members, whose perspectives were welcomed by meeting participants. Other elements of the program included an opening address from Ms. Debra Garcia, 2019-2020 ISBER President, networking opportunities, interspersed updates from the ISBER Shanghai 2019 conference, together with three educational workshops vetted by the ISBER Education and Training Committee. The meeting was a fitting way to close ISBER’s 20th anniversary in Minnesota, a significant healthcare and research hub in the Americas and boasting a strong biobanking heritage.

Comments from the post-meeting survey reflected the satisfaction of participants: “Fabulous keynote”, “Outstanding speakers”, “Great Advocate speakers”, “enjoyed the important focus on diversity from a broad range of speakers,” and “I felt the quality of the science behind the speakers and presentations were much better than in previous meetings. I’d like to see this direction continue”. These and other comments underlined that ISBER is on the right track to increase community engagement and diversity in an open discussion environment.

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