UT System plans to create biobank to advance medical research

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The UT System is in the process of creating a biobank, a shared collection of medical data and tissue samples, with seven of its own academic institutions to use for medical research and scientific discovery.

 The UT System Health Biobank will join with the following seven academic and professional institutions in the UT System: UT Health Houston, UT Health San Antonio, UT MD Anderson Cancer Center, UT Medical Branch, UT Southwestern, UT Health Northeast and UT Rio Grande Valley.

 Lauren Deschner, UT Health San Antonio graduate student, said it’s helpful for medical students to have a bank of data and information at hand to build off of when working on short-term projects.

 “The objective of medical research is to advance treatments and medical technology and (find) ways to get people healthier faster or better with fewer side effects,” Deschner said. “The more resources we have as a school, and as a scientific community in general, the faster we can work towards those things.”

 The biobank initiative is part of the UT Health Care Enterprise, an effort under UT System Chancellor William McRaven’s vision to make Texas a stronger and healthier state while encouraging collaboration among UT institutions.

 Many institutions already use biobanks to efficiently share data and advance biomedical research, Jennifer Sanner, director of the UTHealth Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences Biobank and UTSHB project lead, said in a statement to the UT System.

 “By transforming multiple local biobanks into a cohesive and consistent system, researchers will be able to conduct research using larger sample sizes and data sets,” Sanner said in the statement. “The end result will be improved research effectiveness and quality, and faster translation of discoveries to directly benefit patients.”

 According to it’s website, the UT System has dedicated $3.5 million to the implementation of the biobank software platform, which will eventually be used across the UT System.

 “(The UT Medical Branch), for example, can build and share a sample collection of rare infectious diseases while expanding new areas of research excellence by using samples from diseases, such as cancer, that are collected largely from other UT institutions,” Michael Laposata, director and chairman of the Department of Pathology at UT Medical Branch, said in a statement to the UT System.

 Two UT System offices, the Office of Health Affairs and the Office of Shared Services, will additionally help with overall strategy and software implementation of the biobank initiative.