The Secrets to Collaborative Success in Biobanking and Other Tips

Dr. Frans van der Horst, of Stichting Dutch Collaborative Biobank, joins Pharma IQ to discuss global biobanking.

Pharma IQ: Frans, one of the key themes for Global Biobanking 2011 is collaboration, and with the Dutch Collaborative Biobank (DCB) this is an area you clearly know very well, but before we dig into the details of the DCB let me ask you first, how important are "collaborations" or "partnerships" to the biobanking world in general?

F van der Horst: This depends on the scale of activity. However in general collaboration with selected partners in general will improve the quality of decision making and product.

Pharma IQ: What do you consider to be the main advantages of a collaborative approach to biobanking?

F van der Horst: It is our strongest believe that collaboration will result in a critical mass for and high quality, efficient and cost effective infrastructure, which is not attainable for smaller scale groups.

Pharma IQ: As some people may know, the DCB is an exciting new project which aims to make use of some of these advantages you mentioned to improve the quality and cost efficiency of biobanking in Dutch hospitals - tell me, how did you first come up with the concept?

F van der Horst: I’m a clinical chemist at one of the major medical laboratories in the Netherlands. By looking around in other labs and doing ISO-15189-based external  audits one gets a pretty good picture what is going on in the labs.  Pure common sense led us to this concept. Working together to get the right operational scale is a nobrainer. What makes it difficult is the content of the business cards of the potential stakeholders, if you know what I mean.   As a child I’ve been playing a lot with lego-stones and the oriental play “go”. These are the ultimate concepts of collaboration and interoperability,  

Pharma IQ: What have been some of the biggest challenges you've experienced so far in trying to set it up?

F van der Horst: To induced the paradigm shift from organisation based thinking to function based thinking in the potential clients and to explain the uniqueness of this concept to decision makers “we got biobank already right... we don’t need another”.

Pharma IQ: So what does the future look like for the DCB?

F van der Horst: To get the physical biobank started 2011Q4 with committed partners and to further expend web based applications and get some additional greenfields to proof the concept.

Pharma IQ: If someone else in another country wanted to start a collaboration between hospitals, institutes or indeed even public-private partnerships, what 3 top pieces of advice would you give them, knowing what you do now?

F van der Horst: To collaborate with us and use the stuff already deployed and help to increase the critical mass; to start with smaller scale partners and keep focussed on the mount Everest; and to connect to (biobank) organisations like BBMRI, ISBER and IHE to ensure proper understanding of the fundamentals of bioresearch and informatics.

Interview conducted by Helen Winsor.