Contributed by Piper Mullins, Program Manager for the Pan-Smithsonian Cryo-Initiative
The Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) hosted a workshop on April 9-11, 2017 to discuss the future of veterinary biobanking. In particular, the group focused on the many challenges to biobanking and to sharing high-quality animal specimens. I had the opportunity to co-facilitate the workshop, and was impressed with the amount of existing veterinary biobanking activity. There is much potential for networking and coalition opportunities to create standards and increase specimen sharing.
“When Dr. Patty Olson called to inquire about our interest in hosting a biobanking workshop at the CVM, we were elated and our response was a resounding yes,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “Biobanking has evolved from a novel idea to an essential resource in medical and veterinary research […] maximizing the benefits of biobanks relies on common standards and consistency in everything from sample collection to sample access.”
“Selected leaders in veterinary and human biobanking were brought together to share expertise and experiences with the ultimate goal of creating consistency,” Green said. “The contributions of each and every workshop participant were superb. This group will certainly remain active and connected, as ideas are shared freely within the scientific community.”
The workshop participants discussed the challenges that are unique to veterinary biobanking in relation to the ISBER Best Practices. A large need was identified surrounding the procurement and sharing of high-quality biospecimens. Participants then developed action items to facilitate these activities. Standardizing veterinary biobanking processes will be critical for future academic research to further advance both animal and human health. Such samples will also be important to the many industries developing new therapies or diets to treat and/or prevent disease.
Already, many institutions readily share their biobanking knowledge and expertise (see CTSA One Health Alliance [COHA]). However, researchers in need of samples may not be aware of animal biobank resources outside their institution. The workshop group agreed to raise awareness and standards of animal biobanks through:
- A communication plan to connect biobanks
- White papers on unique challenges and solutions, and
- Animal biobanking standard document endorsements or development.
If you would like to receive periodic updates on the outcomes from this workshop, please subscribe to the veterinary biobanking listserv or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To subscribe, please send an email to email@example.com with the following information in the body of the message (replacing “firstname” with your first name and “lastname” with your last name): SUBSCRIBE veterinarybiobankinginformation firstname lastname.
As the Program Manager for the Pan-Smithsonian Cryo-Initiative, Piper Mullins manages the development of the Smithsonian biorepository network to integrate, standardize, and manage information systems and biodiversity cryo-collections (i.e. biobanks). She is responsible for creating and maintaining a resource allocation program for dispersed departments to gain access to institutional biobank management resources, such as purchasing freezers and hiring technicians. Her work to create a cross-departmental team to consolidate freezer maintenance tasks into a centralized contract has saved the Institution thousands. She also leads collaborative biobank guidelines development and implementation projects across the Institution to increase efficiency and standards, and is aiding ISBER to increase membership from the veterinary and agricultural/biology sectors.