Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the year 2021 was a productive one at the Helsinki Biobank, with increased leveraging of data. Biobank consents are increasingly filed online. We gained experience in organizing online and hybrid events.

We received 113 preliminary query requests during the year under review, compared with 105 in the previous year. The number of sample delivery agreements (42) increased by 10 on the previous year. It is still the case that most biobank projects are academic, i.e. researcher-driven, but the number of corporate projects is growing promisingly. 

Participating in international and national research projects

During the year under review, we joined significant research projects receiving EU funding to study digital pathology data collecting, processing and leveraging in Europe (BIGPICTURE), risk profiles of genetic disorders (Intervene) and identification of under-diagnosed rare diseases using AI (Rare3k). We coordinate national research on how to leverage genome data gained through biobank research in health care, supported by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. 

Data from the Helsinki Biobank is being used in more than 100 research projects, many of them international.

We delivered more than 15,000 DNA-isolated samples for the national FinnGen project, bringing the total of Helsinki Biobank deliveries to FinnGen to more than 93,000. Genotype data on 63,000 of these have been returned to us, and these data will be utilized in further research.  

Fresh tissue samples for cancer research

With the help of the cancer center FiCAN South and working with HUSLAB pathology laboratories, we collected more than 1,100 fresh tissue samples from cancer patients for the Helsinki Biobank. 

In all, we have accumulated nearly 7,000 fresh tissue samples to date. The fresh tissue samples from cancer patients collected for Helsinki Biobank are an important input in the iCAN project.  

Online service development continued

We designed and delivered data analytics in demanding customer projects. Preliminary query requests received through the portal are generally responded to in one to two weeks, and cohort formation for delivery requests takes one to two months, depending on how complicated the task is.

 We are increasingly collecting biobank consents online, through the Health Village and Maisa platforms. The specialist research nurses at the Biobank assist and train employees at hospital units in HUS and in the Specific Catchment Area in how to ask for patient consent. However, units have faced significant challenges in collecting consents and samples due to the coronavirus pandemic and due to the deployment of the Apotti system, and we hope that we will be able to dispose of these challenges in the future.

Our operations verifiably comply with quality standards

Fimea, the authority that oversees biobanks, audited the Helsinki Biobank in December 2021. The audit went well: our quality documentation was found to be of a high quality, and our operations were found to be compliant with the Biobank Act. The operations of the Helsinki Biobank are thus now comprehensively documented and maintained in accordance with good quality system practice.