Biobanks are organized collections of biomaterial samples available for research. In rare diseases, the number of available biosamples is often very limited, which hinders research into disease pathogenesis and mechanisms and therapy development. Making rare disease blood, DNA, urine and tissue samples accessible for reuse is thus particularly important, as each sample is of great value.
Hanns has a longstanding interest in developing the infrastructure to improve the availability of biosamples and was scientific coordinator of the EuroBioBank network between 2005 and 2012. Within RD-Connect, the international rare disease infrastructure initiated by Hanns in 2012, improved networking, standardized protocols and detailed international cataloguing methods were developed, enabling researchers to locate and request the samples they need.
As well as the infrastructural component and focus on sample sharing for research, Hanns has established biobanks for his own research groups, making their samples accessible to researchers worldwide. In Munich, Germany, he initiated the Muscle Tissue Culture Collection (MTCC) at the Friedrich-Baur Institute. While in Newcastle, UK, he was responsible for the coordination of the MRC Centre Neuromuscular Biobank, a joint initiative between Newcastle and London which supported and facilitated rare and neuromuscular disease research worldwide.
In Ottawa, biobanking facilities are being established at the newly launched Neuromuscular Research Centre, enabling Canadian participants to allow their biosamples to be banked for inclusion in research related to their condition.
Read about the importance of international networks of biobanks and the EuroBioBank network here.