UAHS Biorepository

Working closely with research efforts supported by Divisional Cores within the Division of Translational and Regenerative Medicine, including our BioBank Core, is the University of Arizona Health Sciences (UAHS) Biorepository. This serves as the “biorepository core” for all of the UAHS colleges and medical research at the UA.

David Harris, PhD, UA professor of immunobiology and medicine, is an affiliated faculty member in the Division of Translational and Regenerative Medicine who leads the UAHS Biorepository as its executive director. Dr. Harris is a nationally recognized basic scientist in the field of biobanking with more than 20 years of experience, including managing clinical repositories with numbers of samples in the hundreds of thousands. He is supported by UA associate research scientist Michael Badowski, PhD, who has about a decade of experience in managing daily biorepository laboratory operations.

The UAHS Biorepository facilities are related to the UA Cancer Center Biorepository (led by UA Department of Pathology Chair Achyut K. Bhattacharyya, MD) as well as the AZiCATS Biospecimen Initiative (ABI) — which Drs. Harris and Badowski also lead — within the Arizona Institute for Clinical and Translational Science (AZiCATS) at the University of Arizona.

The UAHS Biorepository core’s mission is to provide high-quality, clinically annotated specimens and superior service to the research community as well as to other institutions involved in biomedical research. In addition, it collects, catalogues and distributes human biological samples with associated pertinent clinical data to facilitate translational research and help investigators accomplish their research aims — in cooperation with the AZiCATS Clinical Research Data Warehouse and the UAHS Center for Biomedical Informatics and Biostatistics (led by director Yves A. Lussier, MD, FACMI).

The Biorepository core is housed and administered within the UAHS. It works closely with investigators to enhance their projects by supplying quality-controlled tissues and expert consultation. Historically, it has supplied investigators with tissues suitable for genomic analysis, tissue arrays suitable for immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization, frozen tissue suitable for RNA profiling, and peripheral blood specimens for future analyses and biomarker development.

The overall goal of the Biorepository is the establishment of a coordinated biological specimen banking and retrieval service that links biospecimens to highly annotated clinical and laboratory data. The aims of this effort include:

  • Providing a robust research resource that enables the highest-quality translational science, including access to its existing tissue archives,
  • Supporting precision health strategies including large scale sequencing, integration of molecular data, and storage of blood and serum from patients,
  • Offering technical and regulatory expertise to investigators and physician-scientists at UAHS in support of sponsored research projects and proposals, including histopathological analyses and assistance with prospectively collected biospecimens,
  • Providing high-quality, consistent and standardized specimen acquisition, storage and retrieval processes, including its archives — using a process of IRB-approved informed consent to protect patient confidentiality by unlinking personal health information (PHI) from the sample at time of banking while still maintaining linkage with clinical data,
  • Linking clinical data to specimens for increased scientific value,
  • Providing expertise in immunohistochemistry assessment and samples appropriate for specific studies,
  • Working with Bioinformatics to establish an informatics strategy for networking of requests, specimen tracking, extraction of de-identified data relating to biospecimens, and linkage to clinical and research data, and
  • Collecting and managing pertinent pathologic and clinical information in conjunction with the UA Biostatistics Core. The biorepository utilizes TissueMetrix2 (TM2) as the central database for information about all banked biosamples. The software has a web based front-end with an Oracle database which permits access from web browsers across multiple platforms. It employs role-based security to permit control over user access to information stored in the database. The i2b2 open source exploration tool is used as a storefront for investigator sample requests in a text-based format.

All samples are stored according to industry best practices, in temperature-controlled, monitored, and alarmed environments in LN2 storage dewars or other freezers (e.g., -80°C freezers) as appropriate to maximize resource integrity utilizing Current Good Tissue Practice (CGTP) whenever possible.

The Biorepository provides dedicated personnel, facilities and experience to investigators with clinically annotated high-quality biospecimens. Its structure takes advantage of extensive experience in managing large, multi-site biospecimen repositories to organize and manage the multi-site nature of the proposed projects.

The Biorepository has expertise in sample procurement, processing, banking, clinical annotation and informatics for all types of biological specimens and derivatives to support and manage the need for “real” and “virtual” tissue banking across institutions and projects. It is capable of providing collection and shipping containers/kits specifically designed to the needs of the individual projects. In addition, it has extensive experience in the utilization of medical couriers for unique specimen transport.