Message from the Director of the Center of Excellence
With the completion of two years of operation of our biobank.cy Center of Excellence, we cannot ignore the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our activities. Impact which concerns the progress of certain activities and the delay of some milestones but at the same time evidenced the readiness of our young infrastructure to respond to the need for biobanking material and data of patients who survived the corona virus. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the unique biorepository we have built up with more than 2000 volunteers of all ages, enrolled in the period since November 2020. Most of them are individuals who had been affected and responded to our call for participation in a study that involved the measurement of IgG antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, in addition to banking sensitive data and biological material aimed to use in genetic studies. A major manuscript is in preparation which describes our first important findings regarding the Cypriot population antibody response to the corona virus.
Our personnel have reached 50 people with a strong biobanking department, with six nurses and six biobank technologists and management, while the preparation for certification of ISO 9001 is well on its way, thanks to the hard work of many. The IT team has grown to five people and the implementation of the OpenSpecimen to serve as the Biobank Information Management System is also well advanced despite some delays for various reasons. This development, hopefully to be completed in a few more months, is to upgrade the operation of the Biobank to unprecedented level, offering new potentials for quality banking and research. Two specialists in biostatistics and bioinformatics started recently, and are expected to lead us into new avenues as regards genomics studies which are already generating BIG data. The most recent hire of an expert in Medical Law and Bioethics is going to leverage our competences to handle internally thorny dilemmas while developing research avenues on aspects with ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI).
A major collaboration achieved during the past year has been with Ophthalmos, a private Medical and Educational Institute, which enabled the banking of individuals of the general population who sustain eye problems. More than 500 volunteers have enrolled already, focusing on patients with keratoconus, cataract, macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Another similar achievement has been the reaching of agreement to collaborate with the Ministry of Defense, aimed to enroll volunteers engaged in the military, with the aim to biobank 500 family trios (two spouses and one child).
The conscientious and meticulous work of the personnel is highly appreciated and I am proud to work with you all, contributing to effecting high caliber advancements in biobanking in Cyprus, in ways that were unheard of until only two years ago. Perhaps the most exceptional aspect of biobank.cy is the transparency and quality of its operations, with high fidelity of activities, careful safeguarding of personal data in compliance to the general data protection regulation (GDPR) and high confidence in the UCY safety measures implemented at our Center.
I thank you all and I urge you to keep up the good work. Our good intentions and great efforts notwithstanding, there is still a lot ahead of us to be done in the next years. Quality is our flag, while there is nobody else knowing better that by Investing in Biobanking we are Investing in a Healthier Cyprus.
Prof. Constantinos Deltas
Director, biobank.cy, Center of Excellence in Biobanking and Biomedical Research