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Biorepository Core banks clinical information for biomedical research

Story - Conquering diseases Leading the Conquering Diseases Biorepository Core are, from left: Thomas Mayer, PhD, director of the biorepository laboratory; Craig M. Lilly, MD, program director; and Joanne Meisner, project manager.

The UMass Medical School Conquering Diseases Biorepository Core, a new resource for banking blood samples for biomedical research, will soon make available a substantial amount of anonymous clinical information for use in biomedical research. Although the Biorepository Core is still building its inventory of samples, it is poised to quickly expand and capture information that will further the understanding of the disease process.

The Biorepository Core is a collaborative effort led by Craig Lilly, MD, professor of medicine, anesthesiology and surgery and director of the UMass Memorial eICU program; Ralph Zottola, PhD, instructor in biochemistry & molecular pharmacology and associate chief information officer of Academic  & Research Computing Services; Gary Schneider, PhD, professor of molecular medicine and associate vice provost for research administration; and Paul Ranauro, senior application database developer; and overseen by the UMMS Institutional Review Board. It will store plasma, DNA and RNA and will provide researchers with a pool of de-identified samples to work with.

While many biorepositories bank DNA and protein products, few bank RNA. Given the Medical School’s strength in RNA research, the Biorepository Core will seek to meet the research needs by isolating both high molecular weight DNA and total RNA (including small RNA and microRNA). Additionally—and equally important—researchers will be able to obtain de-identified information about patients’ age, gender, diagnoses and medications at the time of the sample draw, allowing for comparison of one sample to the next.

“To conquer common diseases, we need to identify the factors responsible for differences in how they manifest and respond to treatment,” said Dr. Lilly, director of the Biorepository Core. “In partnership with health care providers at UMass Memorial, we are documenting how diseases present and respond to treatment every day. The biorepository is about using this information to not only understand what those variations are and why, but also, eventually, to better guide patient care for the best outcomes.”

As of September 2009, researchers are able to search two million records—completely de-identified to protect patient privacy—that include 122 million clinical facts.

Originally published in the UMMS in-house newsletter Focus.