Auria Biobank and Bayer have launched an extensive collaboration concentrating initially on cancer research. Finnish biobanks offer a unique combination for medical research: extensive sample collections collected over several decades, a possibility to link samples and donor health data – and all this information in digital form.
Auria Biobank, based in Turku, and global pharmaceutical giant Bayer have started collaboration to discover more efficient cancer medication and diagnostics. The cooperation, initiated in the spring of 2015, opens a door to a wide range of joint projects in various areas of medical research. The first projects concentrate on cancer research.
“Auria Biobank has an extensive collection of tumor samples collected over a long period of time. What is more important, these samples can be linked to donor health data. Without this clinical data, biological samples would not be very useful. What makes this package so unique is the fact that Auria’s data is in a digital database. Finnish biobanks are in an auspicious position because they can offer this globally uncommon combination,” says Director Tarja Jalava from Bayer Oy.
“Our goal as a biobank is to make the best possible use of our samples in order to develop new drugs and diagnostics that can improve patient treatment in the future. Our retrospective samples and clinical data represent several types of cancer and can help us gain a better understanding of the mechanics of both the disease and its medication,” says Director Heli Salminen-Mankonen from Auria Biobank.
The collaboration aims at examining the molecular features of cancer cells to find out, which treatment works best for different types of cancer. The research group is looking for so-called biomarkers that could enable personalized treatment – choosing the right medication for the right patient at the right time.
Biobank Act: A Finnish framework for research collaboration
One factor that makes cooperation between a Finnish biobank and a global company appealing is the Finnish Biobank Act. It came into effect in 2013 and sets a clear and simple legal framework for biobank research as well as for public and private sector collaboration. Samples and donor-related information collected in a biobank can be used with the donors’ permission for various research needs now and in the future.
“One important feature of the Finnish Biobank Act is its recall option. If something new and relevant is discovered, donors can be contacted again to request their consent for further research. This can benefit donors for example if a new treatment is discovered,” says Salminen-Mankonen.
”The recall option would for instance enable approaching patients through the biobank, if their personal biomarker profile shows that they could be potential participants in a clinical trial,” adds Jalava.
Finland’s tradition of collecting biological samples started already in the 1940s. Samples can be linked to comprehensive nation-wide healthcare registers and databases. On average, Finns are very willing to participate in research. The homogenous Finnish healthcare system and education also benefit medical research.
“This collaboration with Auria Biobank has really sparked interest in our international headquarters. Bayer is now looking into further research collaboration opportunities with Finnish partners,” says Jalava.