A collaboration between Queen’s University Belfast, the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust (BHSCT) and the University of Ulster will create a unique Biobank of clinical samples to support biomedical research within academia and industry across Northern Ireland.
Phase one of the NI Biobank, led by CCRCB researchers Dr Jacqueline James and Professor Peter Hamilton, will establish a collection of high quality tumour tissues and bloods from consented patients being treated for cancer in the Belfast Trust. This bank of tumour samples will complement both the Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) and the CR-UK Centre initiatives within CCRCB by promoting translational cancer research. Collectively over £1.9M has been secured to develop the infrastructure necessary for tumour banking to be successful. Tissue and bloods will be accrued from individuals with GI, Breast, Lung, Head and Neck, Gynaecological and Genitourinary malignancies; the bank will also support the storage of samples retained during trials undertaken in the NI Cancer Clinical Trials Centre and Network. A collection of readily accessible, high quality, well annotated tumour samples will be essential in the discovery of new biomarkers for cancer prognosis, prediction and indicators of clinical response and will support the approaches in stratified medicine being promoted across the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences.
The NI Biobank will be supported by a secure information management system which will be accessible to data managers in the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry in order to link the tumour samples anonymously with robust clinical and pathological information.
Funding for phase one of the NI Biobank is a syndicate of three partners. Cancer Research–UK has provided funds as part of the Belfast CR-UK Cancer Centre initiative to enhance the research infrastructure within the BHSCT Tissue Pathology department facilitating sample accrual and molecular typing (£430,263). The Health and Social Care Research and Development Division of the Public Health Agency (HSC R&D Division) has awarded a five year grant for £1,495,414 which will support day to day running costs and a number of Biobank staff. The Friends of the Cancer Centre (FOCC) have awarded two grants, one for £58,163 to create an information management system and the other £12,913 for the purchase of a MacroPath Imaging System. The local digital pathology company i-Path Diagnostics have been awarded the tender by Queen’s to create and support the IT system for the Biobank.
Mrs Priscilla Clark has been appointed the Administrator for the NI Biobank tumour collection. Priscilla will have responsibility for operational activities of the bank ensuring strategies, policies and development plans are implemented. A key role for the bank administrator will be to liaise with various stakeholders, the University, the BHSCT, HSC R&D Division, CR-UK and the FOCC.