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URMC / Clinical & Translational Science Institute / Stories / June 2020 / COVID-19 Biobank Helps Researchers Share Patients’ Samples

COVID-19 Biobank Helps Researchers Share Patients’ Samples

gloved hand holds coronavirus positive blood sampleUniversity of Rochester researchers have a new and powerful tool in understanding the diagnosis and progression of coronavirus. With a $280,000 grant from the Mangurian Foundation, the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) is establishing the COVID-19 Biobank. The Biobank will safely collect and store blood samples from COVID-19-positive and -negative patients and link the samples to the patients’ clinical data.

The Biobank, created through a partnership between URMC’s Shared Resource Labs and the University of Rochester Clinical and Translational Science Institute (UR CTSI), will expedite researchers’ ability to study how the body’s immune system reacts to a COVID-19 infection and how COVID-19 affects different cell populations. This will enable researchers to test and validate new methods to treat and control the virus. 

“The symptoms and clinical course of coronavirus vary greatly from patient to patient. The Biobank will provide URMC researchers access to blood samples, coupled with clinical data, to advance our knowledge of COVID-19 and accelerate clinical diagnostics and treatments,” said Martin Zand, M.D., Ph.D., co-director of the UR CTSI and senior associate dean for Clinical Research at URMC. “This effort is already speeding clinical COVID-19 research across the board and enabling us to contribute to national and international COVID-19 research – both now and for years to come.”

The Harry T. Mangurian, Jr. Foundation is providing funding for the COVID-19 Biobank. The foundation was established in 1999 to honor the late Harry T. Mangurian, a businessman and former owner of the Boston Celtics. The foundation provides support to medical, educational and environmental organizations nationally and internationally. 

"Considering the current environment, we are pleased to be in a position to provide timely support to assist in establishing this COVID-19 Biobank. Hopefully, this will expedite the researchers' efforts in treating and controlling the virus," said Gordon Latz, vice president of grants for the foundation.

With the serum, plasma and immune cells made available by the biobank, researchers can test ways to improve screening for the virus and better understand how new treatments impact the immune response. As an added bonus, this dedicated biorepository will safely and securely link samples to patients’ clinical data, while protecting patients’ identities.

“The real-time integration of sample data with clinical data from the URMC electronic health record is a critical component for these research protocols,” said Jeanne Holden-Wiltse M.P.H., M.B.A., director of informatics at the UR CTSI. “It allows groundbreaking research to advance while securing and protecting personal health information.”

With an estimated 1,550 patients (1,400 COVID-positive and 150 COVID-negative) to be collected over a two-year period, the Biobank will be able to support numerous projects and researchers. Without the COVID-19 Biobank, investigators would need to spend time, money and energy securing these samples from the greater patient population, which would slow down their research initiatives.

The UR CTSI organized a team to establish the Biobank almost as soon as the pandemic began in the Rochester region. The team included clinical and biomedical investigators, and staff from the UR CTSI’s Informatics and Research Services Branches, URMC Shared Resource Labs, Pathology and the UR CTSI’s Clinical Research Center. The UR CTSI also created the data pipeline for the repository. Samples and data are being collected now, and information on how researchers can request samples will be announced shortly.

Susanne Pritchard Pallo | 6/10/2020

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