The Auckland Region Tissue Bank (ARTB) is a critical component in New Zealand’s medical research infrastructure. As a central facility for storing blood and tissue samples, they have a library that could hold the secrets to unlocking cures for existing and future chronic diseases and illnesses. They make these samples available to researchers from the University of Auckland as well as throughout New Zealand and collaborators further afield.
Having a collection samples for medical research is highly desirable as it acts as a repository that researchers can access at any time. The ARTB currently house around 125,000 samples, with the number having grown exponentially in the last 4 years. Without a facility like ARTB, collecting samples would be a tedious and onerous task that uses a lot of researcher time and slows medical research. However, having the samples is just one part of the equation. Being able to access the right samples with specific clinical parameters to isolate specific strains, genetic traits or tissue types is of equal importance.
Phillip Shepherd, the Regional Tissue Bank Manager said, “When the University of Auckland created the ARTB and acquired the existing library of samples from Middlemore Hospital Tissue Bank, there was a need to unify the bioinformatics system and we were looking for a robust and structured system able to manage our biobank in a constructive way. We chose OpenSpecimen as the system was able to be customised to our specific needs and the developers, Krishagni were dedicated to biobanking and had a vast depth of experience that we could tap into”.
Originally developed with funding from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in the US to aggregate and manage biospecimen data, OpenSpecimen has continued to evolve into a comprehensive open source bioinformatics platform. It is now used in over 65 biobanks around the world.
ARTB engaged with Krishagni right from the start of their journey. By involving them in their workflows and practices, Krishagni were more easily able to advise and customise OpenSpecimen to their requirements.
“The open source nature of OpenSpecimen allows us to make changes to the system by ourselves and not be locked into using the developer for every change that we need. Of course there are modifications that we get Krishagni involved with, and they are always very accommodating and responsive”, said Mr Shepherd.
Alice Rykers, the ARTB’s OpenSpecimen super user and Tissuebank Technician said of her experience with OpenSpecimen, “I really enjoy using it and have been thoroughly impressed with how it works. It gives us excellent visibility and the query module is a Godsend with its ability to quickly generate reports and display data.”
While the ARTB’s collection if tissue samples is strategically focussed on medical research areas such as blood cancers, cardiac, breast, sarcoma, melanoma and endometriosis, they are always open to collaborating with other research groups where they can offer a service. This will no doubt see their valuable library continue to grow, increasing the relevance of ARTB. This can all happen with the knowledge that OpenSpecimen will be able to grow with them.