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Kentucky Launching Extensive Biobank

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The University of Kentucky is creating a biobank that will be a large, flexible resource that gathers samples from the patient population at the university hospital.

UK said this week that the Research Registry and Specimen Bank, run by the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science, will use leftover blood and tissues from normal medical procedures conducted at the hospital.

The hospital will give its patients consent forms that will enable the bank to store blood and tissue samples that are left over from procedures and then to share those samples with researchers. The UK biobank will not focus on samples for one disease area, such as cancer, but will maintain a fluid collection that can shift to meet the varying needs of the UK research community.

"This is a unique biobank," CCTS Director Philip Kern said in a statement. "Other universities have freezers full of tissues, but we're doing this in a more global fashion, [consenting patients] upfront at registration, rather than in a retroactive, disease-specific fashion. This gives us more flexibility to get larger numbers of samples and get samples that we might not have thought about."

Because of the size and diversity of the patient population at the UK hospital, which sees about 35,000 patients annually, the biobank is expected to be "huge," and to house a variety of healthy and non-healthy specimens, the university said.

The initial, limited rollout of the biobank program began earlier this month, with only elective surgical patients receiving biobank consent forms. UK said that by January all inpatients and outpatients will begin receiving the consent forms.

In its next phase, the rollout will expand to include the outpatient clinic at UK's Markey Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center. UK said it expects the Markey Center will be one of the major beneficiaries of the new biobank program.

It added that the scale of the biobank will give it unique flexibility.

"For example, if a researcher needs spinal fluid specimens for her study, the director of the biobank will be able to increase storage capacity for spinal fluid, along with targeted consenting of patients undergoing a spinal tap procedure in the course of their medical care," UK said.

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