Biobanking and the Cyprus Human Genome Project
The CY-Biobank project is the flagship of all the projects that are currently being implemented at the Molecular Medicine Research Center (MMRC) of the Center of Excellence, biobank.cy, of the University of Cyprus. Its development is associated with the aspiration to lead the scientific and medical community into the next generation of research in Cyprus, aimed to precision and personalized medicine, as an overarching venture.
The CY-Biobank project is supporting the building of a contemporary Biobank research infrastructure that incorporates eHealth, that will in turn assist in implementing the Cyprus Human Genome Project, as well as other genomics/genetics projects for diseases with Mendelian inheritance as well as complex disorders of multifactorial character that impact modern societies. Biobanks are organized collections of medical records and biospecimens, aimed to support biomedical research, serving as repositories and distribution centers. A key element in this endeavor is the implementation of procedures and solutions of the highest quality management, with great respect to the protection of confidentiality, in compliance with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Research wise, the project intends to support studies concerned with all forms of cancer, cardiovascular conditions and kidney disorders, rheumatic diseases, psychiatric conditions and dementias, diabetes and autoimmune diseases and any other condition of interest to the medical community. In doing so, it aims to enroll more than 16,000 donors within the years 1-7, applying a project-focused approach, thus achieving operational sustainability, before expanding into a general population Biobanking beyond year 7.
This project is of national interest to the Cyprus Government, as both the genetic investigation of diseases and eHealth are a priority for the Smart Specialization Strategy of the country. Overall, the project will allow to pus the envelope for enhancing the European Research Area. Biobanking and genomics infrastructures in Cyprus are lagging behind of European levels, thus limiting the prospects for research and innovation potential. Hence, the CY-Biobank project is expected to raise the level of the Cyprus research capacity and place the island on the map of scientific research and biobanking, generating and sharing data at global level.
One of the project’s main actions includes establishing the MediEuro Network, a forum in biobanking and genetics research between the countries of the Middle East, with biobank.cy playing a major role as a coordinator and facilitator in bridging the main actors in these fields from countries of the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Gulf with those of the European Union.
At the same time, at a national level, the CoE biobank.cy will embrace the entire research community and serve as an incubator for innovative ideas and as a tertiary medical and educational institute for the rare monogenic and frequent complex disorders, aimed at better patient care and precision medicine. The actions of this project will adopt a patient-centric approach showing respect to sensitive ethical, legal and social issues, with the involvement of all stakeholders in the medical and patients’ communities. What is more important, however, is that the CoE aspires, to have an altruistic and positive social impact, as a result of helping shape the Cyprus national health policy and thus improving the quality of life of the patients.
The external Advanced Partners are the Medical University of Graz that coordinated the preparatory phase of the project for Biobanking & BioMolecular resources Research Infrastructure (BBMRI) during the FP7 program and its subsequent European Research Infrastructure Consortium, BBMRI-ERIC, which represents the largest family of Biobanks in Europe. A local partner is RTD TALOS Ltd, a private SME which is assisting with administration and business development issues.
Collaborators and supporters in this project are the Ministry of Health and other major establishments of the academic and research sector as well as the Cyprus Federation of Patients’ organizations. The Center has ongoing collaborative projects with major groups in Europe and the USA.