Biobanking has been widely acknowledged as a critical research infrastructure both on a national and international scale with the potential to impact many fields, most notably medical research. That said, Australia’s biobanking industry operates largely in a siloed fashion that caters to local needs and limits the impact it could have on other research projects.
To fully unleash the potential of individual biobanks and the broader research community, a national strategy is required to establish a coordinated biobanking framework at national level to create a strong research and innovation ecosystem to tackle real-world complex questions. The strategy would need to also address the current barriers and challenges for forming a collaborative framework. This forum session aims to discuss considerations for the national biobanking strategy taking into account experience and perspectives from the European framework, health and medical research, national history collections and existing national conversations.
Professor Michael Hummel – German Biobank Node
Professor Michael Hummel is head of the molecular diagnostics at the Institute of Pathology (Charité, Berlin) and a longstanding researcher with a scientific topic for molecular mechanisms in malignant lymphoma (more than 350 high ranking publications). Molecular diagnostics at Charité covers a broad spectrum of assays ranging from simple PCRs for the detection of viral and bacterial infections, complex PCRs for B- and T-cell clonality, RT-PCR based gene expression for breast cancer, FISH for chromosomal alterations and targeted NGS (started in June 2014) for mutation analysis in cancer tissues and liquid biopsies. The samples of many thousands of patients are being analyzed in our molecular lab every year. In addition to the above described activities Michael Hummel is the director of the central biobank at the Charité and the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH). Furthermore he is Director of the German Biobank Node and Coordinator of the German Biobank Alliance. In this function he is responsible for the coordination and harmonization of the national biobanking activities and for the representation of the German biobank community at the European level in the frame of the biobanking infrastructure BBMRI-ERIC.
Dr Craig Willers – The Australian Arthritis and Autoimmune Biobank Collaborative (A3BC)
Craig has been National Director of the Australian Arthritis and Autoimmune Biobank Collaborative (A3BC), headquartered at the Kolling Institute, University of Sydney, since its inception in 2016. And is also Chair of the Kolling Institute Data and Informatics Research Enabler Committee.
Previously, he has worked in health and medical research projects across most states, including consultant and staff roles in university, state health, hospital, biotech and charity. Of note, Craig helped guide the foundations of NSW biobanking and bioinformatics strategy as Principal Policy Officer for the NSW Office for Health and Medical Research, primary development of the 45 & Up Study biobank with Cancer Council NSW and has worked with several other national biobanking groups on consultancy.
Craig’s core interest is developing national, holistic, interoperable and integrated biobanking and informatics projects to realise new levels of innovation in precision and preventive medicine.
Professor Andrew Young – CSIRO
Professor Andrew Young is Director of National Research Collections Australia at the CSIRO. He is a plant population and ecological geneticist who has published more than 90 scientific papers. Andrew is Vice-Chair of the Governing Board of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility based in Copenhagen and a Member of the Australian Academy of Science National Committee for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation. He also Chairs the National Fulbright Postdoctoral Committee and serves on Science Advisory panel for NZ’s Biological Heritage National Science Challenge, as well as being on the editorial boards of several international journals. Andrew is an Adjunct Professor at the Research School of Biology at the Australian National University and a winner of the AAS Fenner Medal. He has also spent many years coaching amateur rugby.
Professor Jennifer Byrne – NSW Health Statewide Biobank
Professor Jennifer Byrne is Director of Biobanking with NSW Health Pathology and conjoint Professor of Molecular Oncology in the Faculty of Medicine and Health at the University of Sydney. Having spent much of her scientific career analysing childhood and adult cancers at a molecular level, Professor Byrne’s current research interests include improving the operations of human tissue banks, and the detection and analysis of biomedical research papers that describe wrongly identified nucleotide sequence reagents.