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Launched in 2008, BBMRI – the pan-European biobanking and biomolecular resources research infrastructure – is working to connect biobanks across Europe, giving doctors, scientists and researchers access to all information available about stored biological samples. This information will help with the study of the environmental and genetic causes of disease as well as make the development of drugs and diagnostic tools more efficient.

Biobanks are collections of different biological materials such as DNA, tissues, cells and blood from both patients and healthy people. They also store additional information about the material, including medical records, environmental and lifestyle information, and follow-up data. Currently, information is spread out across Europe in different biobanks. Now, by creating a coordinated, large-scale, European infrastructure to connect existing biobanks, new and better therapies and prevention methods for deadly diseases such as cancer can be developed and improved.

Biobanks are a particular strength for European research. However they are often underused and underfunded. Connecting European biobanks through BBMRI will address these issues by creating easy, Europe-wide access to the stored data and information.

In addition to linking biobanks storing specimen samples, BBMRI will connect biocomputing centres which will ensure that data about all samples is linked to the existing databases, scientific literature and statistical information. This will give researchers easy Europe-wide access to as much information as possible, making research simpler and more complete.

Over 50 partners from 14 Member States and over 150 associated organisations from 27 States are participating in the BBMRI planning consortium.