Finnish Biobank Act
A new law came into force in 2013, called the Finnish Biobank Act. This act allows all previously collected samples to be transferred to biobanks, making them available for research purposes. The samples are available for all researchers, who have appropriate professional and management capacities and a sound research plan. If the research plan is sound, access to resources may only be restricted under exceptional conditions. One such reason could be saving valuable samples for more important purposes, such as diagnostics.
Vast amount of samples
The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) has traditionally collected samples from population cohorts. In the near future THL aims to transfer over 900 000 samples to the THL Biobank to make them more accessible to the research community. When added to the over 100 000 samples already available, the total amount of samples available will be over one million.
The vast majority of Finnish people willingly give consent to their samples being used in research, which means that the already extensive collection of samples will continue to grow steadily. The number of potential tissue samples that may be collected in the future is nearly 7 million. Few banks – quality you can trust
Even though the number of separate biobanks is few, the amount of samples in each bank is extensive. The biobanks must abide by the nationwide Current Care Guidelines , ensuring stellar professionalism in each bank. All operators must be licensed by the National Supervisory Authority for Health and Welfare (Valvira).
Expanding longitudinal health data with the recall option
A system of personal identity numbers, a homogenous, isolated gene pool and extensive, digital records make Finland an ideal environment for longitudinal research. Personal identity numbers allow researchers to track the health records of sample donors, as well as use the recall option by contacting the donors for further testing if necessary.
Furthermore, since all healthcare providers follow the same guidelines and the standard of care is consistent, all health records are reliable and comparable. The Finns’ homogenous gene pool often makes it easier to discover genetic associations and other factors of interest.
In addition to individual health data in the registries of THL, the Population Register Centre maintains records of marriages, deaths and divorces, allowing for the study of population trends. All these factors combined provide an exceptionally versatile and rich source of information on both individuals and the population.