2013 CTSI Annual Pilot Awards to Improve the Conduct of Research

To facilitate the development, conduct or analysis of clinical & translational research

Biobank Inventory Software Evaluation

Proposal Status: 

Biobanking Inventory Software Evaluation

Rationale:  Access to high quality human biospecimens and associated clinical data is essential to translational and clinical research programs.  Effective and efficient use of human biospecimens is an important tenet of our role as community-entrusted stewards of these valuable resources.   These points are reflective of the conclusions of the CTSI funded (2008-9) Tissue Task Force that engaged Huron Consulting as well as a recent 2011 audit of UCSF tissue banks by UCSF Audit Services. 

It is estimated that UCSF currently maintains 50-200 biobanks – some of them program based (i.e. Cancer Center Tissue Core) and others are PI specific.  However, many researchers remain unaware of the breadth and depth of biospecimens available on campus. Ready access to available inventories would improve utilization and enhance our stated role as community-entrusted stewards of these valuable resources. The UC BRAID Biobanking Work Group, comprised of representatives from all 5 UC academic medical centers, has also identified inventory access as critical for building a UC Regional Research Network across all 5 UC centers; this Network would improve Californians’ access to clinical trials and support critical biomedical research on a broad array of health issues.  The largest access challenge is the variety of inventory software systems employed by the various banks.  The extent of this diversity and barriers to sharing information is not clear currently.  This proposal requests funds to: 1) Conduct a UC-wide assessment of the various inventories in use; 2) Identify the functional needs of each participating bank; 3) Evaluate the feasibility of a common interface that would allow biobanks to choose to share information while retaining their existing inventory software system (low-cost) or determine if broadly viewable inventories are only possible when using a common electronic tool (high-cost), and; 4) Understand biobankers perceived benefits and barriers to increasing researchers’ access to their biobank inventory.  An additional benefit would be a comprehensive list of UCSF Biobanks available for researchers to place deposits. 

Plan:  A Program Manager, hired through the UCSF PMO, will be employed to facilitate this assessment.  He/She would develop an assessment plan and interview UCSF biobank managers to establish current practices and inventory systems as well as to understand of the perceived benefits/barriers to increasing access to biorepositories.   This will inform the process to engage Biobankers at the other UC campuses through UC BRAID.  Additionally, information about the perceived benefits/barriers will help us to identify areas of concerns that must be addressed, and educational programs that may be developed, in order to create a system that will support greater sharing of biosamples at UCSF; this information can be used for similar purposes at other campuses as well.  In addition, the survey will provide a definitive list of biobanks for deposits and withdrawals, and will facilitate integration of biobank inventories with clinical data from the Electronic Medical Record in the Enterprise Data Warehouse, currently under development.

Criteria and metrics for success:  Deliverables from this project would include a list and description of all biobanks at UCSF including the availability of the specimens to the research community and identification of relevant information stored for each specimen; a technical assessment of each of the inventory software systems in use; and a compilation of identified benefits and barriers to opening access to inventories.   This would facilitate the determination of a common interface for the inventories to better mine the data stored. 

Project Total cost:  $53,150.  Request to CTSI:  $50,000.  The remainder of the project costs would come from Research Resource Program (RRP) funds. 

Program Manager to set up the program, identify needed information, conduct Biobanker interviews and write up the assessment:  2.5 days/week for 6 months at $175/hour:  $21,000

Program Staffer (Analyst II or III) to conduct Biobanker interviews and enter data into project database:  50% effort for 6 months $24,150 including benefits (base salary $69,000, median Analyst II salary)

Technical Assessment Staff:  2 weeks of technical assessment by programmer to determine potential inventory interfaces and provide recommendations:  $100/hr x 80 hours = $8,000. 


Collaborators:  Cancer Center Translational Informatics, directed by Sorena Nadaf, has significant experience with software assessment for use on an enterprise level. 

UC BRAID Biobanking Committee, chaired by Sarah Dry, UCLA, will provide insight into appropriate interview questions and UC-wide biobanking needs.


Hi Julie,


I really like this idea of providing a systematic way for researcher to identify biospecimens. I'm thinking in terms of writing these resources into grant proposals--it certainly would be beneficial for an investigator to be able to leverage current resources, and to do so, they obviously need to be able to find if these resources exist. Along those same lines: could the system you describe also be used by researchers looking for a bank in which to deposit their own biospecimens? It seems that is another lacking resource, and one that could potentially be within the scope of what you describe.

Hi Erin -

While the focus of the project is to assess the various software tools used in UCSF biobanks, the project would certainly provide a better inventory of UCSF biobanks than we currently have.  Having that infomation available centrally would have a real positive impact on our research infrastructure and allow better banking of precious human samples.  Adding this point to the current application will certainly strengthen it.  Thank you.



This is a great idea.  I think that instead of 're-inventing the wheel' there should be a way for investigators to have access via a web based program what specimens (animal, human) are available for research at UCSF and other UC campuses.  This would be essential for young faculty who may have limited funds to collect and store their own specimens. 

One thing to consider is that some biobanks do not store the clinical data associated with their specimens.  The PI of a particular project will have the data assoociated with stored specimens. Thus if there is way to connect the specimens and their data would be of value.

The idea of evaluating what software is currently being used by biobanks would provide more information as to how many biobanks are at UCSF and to determine if there are sofware needs of our biobanks.

Good point, Yvonne.  It is true the the associated data will differ for each collection.  Thus finding an interface to link existing rather than force all inventories into the same "box" would be very beneficial.  If the proposal is funding, this will definitely be part of the scope.  Thanks for your input.

The Biobanking needs assessment is a great idea; will there be an opportunity for the UCLA CTSI to participate in the survey or to use the survey tool and methods to conduct the needs assessment at our CTSA? This might be an opportunity for all the UC CTSA evaluation offices to conduct a comparable needs assessment and the initiative fits very nicely as part of the larger BRAID Biobanking Workgroup efforts. How can we participate or replicate the study at our UCLA CTSA? Nice Work!  


Hi Pamela - Thank you for the comments.  I agree that it would be a big plus if we can extend participation in this survey to the UC BRAID institutions.  Adding that to the application text will make it a stronger application.  The initial funding may not be sufficient to include UC BRAID participants in the first phase, but there will be strong impetus to do so in a later phase.


This project will be very helpful to eventually make existing biospecimen resources more readily visible and available. The project focuses on evaluation of biorepository inventory software, and I believe it could be considered to include in the assessment what kind of LIMS progams biobanks are using to record specimen processing and analysis within the core, both in collaboration with other cores as well as with investigators.

Hi Hubert - that is a great point.  Including gathering this information during the survey would make a lot of sense.  Thank you.

Seems a great effort to establish, my recommendation would be to include an evaluation how the biospecimen data are or can be connected with clinical warehouse information coming from the EMR data warehouse. These should be made easily compatible.

Thanks, Laura.  I'll include this point in the proposal.

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