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A biorepository is a biological materials repository that collects, processes, stores, and distributes biospecimens to support future scientific investigation.[1] Biorepositories can contain or manage specimens from animals, including humans, and many other living organisms. Vertebrates, invertebrates, arthropods, and other life forms are just a few of the many classes of living organisms which can be studied by preserving and storing samples taken.


The purpose of a biorepository is to maintain biological specimens, and associated information, for future use in research. The biorepository assures the quality, and manages the accessibility and distribution/disposition of the biospecimens in its collection.


The four main operations of a biorepository are; (i) collection (ii) processing, (iii) storage or inventory, and (iv) distribution of biological specimens.

(i) Collection or accession is the first operation, whereby samples are recorded as having arrived. Today this is typically performed by scanning the sample barcode with a barcode scanning device. Information about the sample is transferred into the laboratory information management system ("LIMS"). Typical data captured would be the origin of the sample and arrival data / time recording in the LIMS.

(ii) Processing of samples is normally a quality tested process that is performed the same way to each of the samples to minimize variation due to sample handling and prepare the sample for storage. The process is usually one that facilitates long-term storage of a particular sample type - for example DNA samples are processed into a salt buffer (aqueous solution) of proper pH to stabilize the DNA for storage.

(iii) Storage and inventory are where all samples are held prior to being requested via a distribution request. The inventory system is composed of sample holding boxes and the boxes are stored in freezers of various types depending on the sample storage requirements.

(iv) Distribution is the process of retrieving one or more samples from the biorepository inventory system.

Standard Operating Procedures[edit]

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) play a crucial role in the biorepository industry. There are a number of reasons why they are important:

  • SOPs reduce incidences of problematic variables appearing within the samples and storage processes by providing standardized guidelines for proper storage and care.[2]
  • Biospecimen samples should closely resemble biospecimens in their natural state. SOPs help ensure that.
  • SOPs provide a standardized framework of how to conduct operations within a biorepository. They ensure seamless and reliable processes be implemented throughout operations.[3]

Important Biorepositories[edit]

NINDS Human Genetics DNA and Cell Line Repository

The NINDS Human Genetics DNA and Cell Line Repository is focused on the discovery of genes as a way of determining the genetic causes of conditions affecting the nervous system. Samples are collected from patients with epilepsy, cerebrovascular disease, motor neuron disease, Tourette syndrome, and Parkinsonism. Control samples are collected as well.

NIGMS Human Genetic Cell Repository

The NIGMS Human Genetic Cell Repository provides resources for genetic and cell research. The samples include highly outlined cell lines and high-quality DNA which exhibit a variety of chromosomal abnormalities, disease states, and apparently healthy individuals.

NIA Aging Cell Repository

The NIA Aging Cell Repository facilitates molecular and cellular research on the causes of aging and the mechanisms of degeneration with which they are associated. Using strict diagnostic criteria, the cells in these reports have been collected over the prior 30 years. Researchers use these viable and highly characterized cultures to conduct studies on diseases such as Parkinsonism, Werner Syndrome, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Progeria.

CIRM Human Pluripotent Stem Cell (hPSC) Repository

The CIRM Human Pluripotent Stem Cell (hPSC) Repository is a large repository with hundreds of different pluripotent stem cell lines created for numerous diseases. These include the autism spectrum disorders and other neuro-developmental conditions, Alzheimer's Disease, blinding eye diseases, and lung, liver, and heart illnesses, and control samples.

NHGRI Sample Repository for Human Genetic Research

In April 2003, The NHGRI Sample Repository for Human Genetic Research successfully completed sequencing of the human genome. Their mission now is to take part in a wide range of studies aimed at understanding the function and structure of this genome and its role in health and disease.

Allen Cell Collection

The Allen Cell Collection is a resource of human induced pluripotent stem cells that come from the WTC-11 parental line where the patient information has been de-identified.

The Autism Research Resource

Funded by the state of New Jersey, the Autism Research Resource was set up to support the research of autism in families where one child is affected and another exhibits signs of a related and significant developmental disorder, or where more than one child is affected.

American Diabetes Association, GENNID Study

The purpose of The American Diabetes Association, GENNID Study is to establish a cell bank and national database consisting of genetic material and information from known families with non-insulin dependent diabetes. The center provides researchers with samples and information necessary to perform genetic linkage studies and find the genes for this condition.

CHDI Repository

Huntington DNAs are available at the CHDI Repository and soon other proteins such as antigenic peptides and antibodies as well as cell lines will be available.

CDC Cell and DNA Repository

DNA samples derived from transformed cell lines for use in molecular genetic testing are available from the Genetic Testing Reference Material Coordination Program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These samples are from diseases such as Huntington Disease, Cystic Fibrosis, Fragile X Syndrome, Alpha-Thalassemia, and Muenke Syndrome.

USIDNET Repository

The USIDNET Repository was established to provide a facility with functional lymphoid cells and DNA obtained from patients with numerous primary immunodeficiency-related conditions. These include rare disorders associated with immune cell function and those caused by abnormalities in complement, antibody, and other immune system mechanisms.

J. Craig Venter Institute Human Reference Genome (HuRef)

The J. Craig Venter Institute Human Reference Genome (HuRef) makes available DNA from J. Craig Venter, whose genome has been sequenced and assembled. The DNA samples are derived from a lymphoblastoid cell line from a sample of the individual’s peripheral blood.

NEI-AREDS Genetic Repository

The NEI-AREDS Genetic Repository was established to discover how cataracts and macular degeneration develop and progress as they are two of the main causes of vision loss in older individuals. The study also tested certain mineral and vitamins to determine if they could help slow down or prevent these conditions.[4]

Intermountain Biorepository The Intermountain Biorepository is a best-in-class biobank that Intermountain started in the 1970’s. The Intermountain Biorepository is one of the largest and most complete biorepositories available. holding more than 4.5 million biological samples preserved in formalin and embedded in paraffin wax. These historic samples are 10 years or older and are no longer in use for immediate clinical care.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ISBER Newsletter Volume No.1, Issue No. 1
  2. ^ "Genomic Medicine: Biobanking Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)". Inside Biobanking. 2015-12-08. Retrieved 2017-10-16.
  3. ^ "The Importance of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPS) in Biobanking". Biorepository. Retrieved 2017-10-16.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-10-07. Retrieved 2017-10-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]