It is called 'ViVa' and will be one of the largest Italian research biobanks. It will be born at the Istituto Superiore di Sanità in the first half of next year. The new structure of about 700 square meters will be able to contain up to 5,000,000 samples and will be built thanks to the collaboration with Siad, one of the main Italian chemical groups, which has developed the entire project for the Institute for a value of 3,500,000 euros. To better understand the characteristics of the biobank, what it will contain and what type of research it will be possible to develop, we interviewed them Luisa Minghettidirector of the Scientific Technical Coordination and Research Support Service of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità.
What will the biobank be used for and what will it contain?
"ViVa will be a research biobank, i.e. an infrastructure where biological samples are collected, prepared and stored to be made available for research purposes. In addition to the samples, the biobank will store all data related to the samples in an IT platform. The data will be enriched with the results of new research performed on biological samples over time".
Is it the first 'bank' of this type in Italy? And are there already such structures in Europe?
"In Italy there are already numerous research biobanks, mostly present in hospitals, IRCCS, research institutions, many of which are part of a national network (BBMRI.it) which belongs to the European research infrastructure of Biobanks and BioMolecular Resources (BBMRI-ERIC), a consortium that brings together the research biobanks of 18 European countries".
How, then, does ViVa differ?
"In most cases, the existing ones are structures that store samples of human origin only, or of animal origin only, while ViVa will be a multidisciplinary biobank in which biological material of multiple origins and types will be stored: animal, human, microbiological, environmental. This will be unique to ViVa and reflects the multidisciplinary nature of the research conducted at the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, which touches all areas relating to the protection of public health. The new structure was designed according to the most recent quality standards for optimal management of the biological material already present in ISS and of the samples that will be collected in the future".
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What research will it be possible to carry out and in which areas will they be applied?
"Biological samples are the material of choice for biomedical research, health protection and the challenges of biotechnology, for this reason the quality and suitability for use of biological materials are essential to guarantee reliable and reliable results. It is therefore necessary to guarantee the quality of the samples during all phases of the research: from the collection of the sample, to the analysis and conservation, according to the quality requirements defined by the guidelines of good practice and by the UNI/ISO standard just mentioned. The fields of application are many, determined by the various types of biological samples which, as already mentioned , will be kept in this new structure. The samples will be kept for future research purposes, not only for ISS researchers but for all researchers who request them, on the basis of rigorous and innovative scientific projects. The projects will be evaluated by a Scientific Committee which will be specifically set up in ISS".
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The samples stored in the biobank will also be collected during the numerous studies in which the ISS is called to participate. Can you give us some examples?
"The ISS currently has various cryopreservation areas, where important collections of biological samples are kept such as, for example, those collected as part of the Cuore project, between 1993 and 2019 in 40,000 donors of all ages, associated with individual data collected at the time of sampling (lifestyles, risk factors, conditions at risk, pathologies, environmental factors), and followed over time (https://www.cuore.iss.it/banca/). Other important examples are the biological bank of the Piccolipiù project (https://www.epicentro.iss.it/materno/BioBancaPiccoliPiu), which preserves the biological material donated by the mother and her child at the time of birth, with over 69,000 biological samples, and over 3,500 DNA samples from the National Gemelli Register (https://www.iss.it/gemelli)".
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Today there is a lot of talk about the concept of One Health: will the biobank also contain samples of an environmental nature?
"Yes, the ViVa biobank will also be able to host new biological samples such as those that are being collected as part of a recent ISS project in collaboration with the Navy for the study of health risks related to the environment and climate in a vision of Planetary Health. The project, called Sea care, will last three years and will be carried out through monitoring that will collect samples along the ordinary routes of some naval units of the Navy in territorial and international waters, in order to collect data on the state of health of the sea. The creation of the new structure will allow biobanking activities to be centralized and put into quality by following an international strategy that recognizes the need to create centralized and complex but more sustainable infrastructures".