Current research projects studying human evolution and diversity or the genetic/genomic factors underlying complex, multi-factorial human diseases need the collection of thousands of biological samples with associated epidemiological, genealogical, lifestyle and/or clinical data. In order to promote and facilitate high quality research in these areas, biobanks are created as organised technological platforms to help researchers in the recruitment of such huge numbers of good quality human samples.
The advance of biotechnology and bioinformatics and the amount of genetic information available through both the Human Genome and HapMap projects, together with the availability of biobank-associated genetic databases, have fostered and highly facilitated genetic/genomic research. At the same time they have generated the need for a rational, ethical and legal management of such resources to ensure appropriate use of the available sample and data collection resources, guaranteeing a balanced promotion of research for the benefit of the community and protection of the rights of the donors (i.e. autonomy of decision and confidentiality). In creating these new structures and networks, different countries have developed different regulations/ recommendations regarding biomedical research, ethical procedures, intellectual property and data protection. The need of sample and data sharing through the establishment of cooperative trans-national projects highlights the interest of biobanking harmonisation promoted by international consortia with the aim of establishing common frameworks that would allow researchers access to a higher number of representative -good quality- samples.
The ESF-UB Conference on Biobanks will be focused on providing an open forum of discussion on all aspects involved in the governance, management and use of human biobanks, technical solutions, ethical, legal, and social aspects, also providing participants with a broad overview of the existing models of biobanks and the international initiatives on population-based and disease-oriented biobanks.