Participants in BBMRI-NL are the eight university medical centres and several other research institutes and universities. The project - which will be the Dutch "hub" of the European Biobanking and BioMolecular Research Infrastructure - aims to establish a harmonised network of quality-assessed biobanks with greatly improved accessibility.
Data and biomaterials will be enriched with modern large scale techniques, for instance DNA-analyses, in order to further facilitate biomedical and health research. The materials, which in some cases have been collected over the past decades, are distributed over many university medical centres and research institutions. Their utility for biomedical research is often impeded by differences in data description and a lack of overview of research activities elsewhere. The project aims at improvement of accessibility and harmonization and enrichment of biological and clinical data. Biomaterials will remain where they are and privacy of donors will be maintained. Part of the budget is dedicated to harmonising privacy protection regulations.
Professor Gertjan van Ommen from the Department of Human Genetics, Leiden University Medical Center, who has applied for the NWO grant on behalf of all participants, is very pleased: "This is a great impulse for epidemiological and biomedical research in The Netherlands. The existing materials are often of high value and quality, but underused because of fragmentation." He expects that the integration of data and materials will significantly accelerate research into causes and development, therapy and prevention of disease.
"Diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer, arthritis and cancer have complex causes, so thousands of samples are necessary in order to reveal significant differences between health and disease. With the BBMRI-NL initiative The Netherlands are responding in a timely fashion to a global trend towards very big research units. This has provided us a front runner position in the European biobanking field. Plus, it makes us an attractive partner for those who are interested in development of better medicines and medical practice", concluded Professor Gertjan van Ommen.