Biobanks, i.e. collections of human biomaterials and associated subject data, which are stored over an extended period, constitute the basis of investigating changes in the human organism before and during the development of a disease. They allow for the identification of molecular variations in healthy persons that potentially may promote the development of a disease as well as the identification of biomarkers that may indicate the beginning of a pathological process (e.g., cancer). In combination with biomonitoring techniques, biological samples permit a more precise measurement of occupational exposures which may serve primary prevention purposes in the surveillance of health risks associated with hazardous substance exposure.
Frequently, such research questions require prospective and repeated collection of biological samples over an extended period of time, which may only develop their full potential aided by biobanks. Those biobanks, requiring sample acquisition over many years, are an important prerequisite for quality-assured research in marker-based secondary prevention and permit not only current, but also analyses with future methods that are not yet available.
The IPA currently realizes the concept of an institutional biobank which will be a lasting and important investment into the institute’s future. Similar collections with occupational medical focus are rare in Germany.