CY-Biobank: An island-wide repository

The scientific staff of this operation consists of researchers of a wide spectrum of specialties, including molecular and cell biologists, geneticists and bioinformaticians, in Cyprus and abroad, while a great number of clinicians are involved at various levels, including the recruiting of patients and healthy volunteers and the pursuing of the various projects. The biobanking activity is under strict quality management, aiming to secure data and samples of the highest and trustworthy quality for research. At the same time, all activities comply with the European General Data Protection Regulation, showing respect to ethical, legal and social issues emanating from these activities.

The Biobank for genetic diseases, and a large kidney related research project had started with funding of two million euro for a duration of 4.5 years (2011-2015). The University of Cyprus, as the host organization, is supporting the function of the MMRC infrastructure, while new funding sources are continuously being sought. Samples from MMRC Biobank can be provided to other internal or external researchers upon proper application that requires the submission and evaluation of the research proposal and information about the objectives and experimental procedures.

The Biobank is approved by the Cyprus National Bioethics Committee, EEBK/ΕΠ/2020/04.

 

The vault

The Biobank hosts more than 4,000 samples of patients and healthy donors (mostly relatives), associated with records and data of variable completeness. Some records are available for general use, upon the approval by the Academic Council. For other records, the Biobank is serving as a custodian to specific research projects, each one of which has its own provisions and limitations for use, per the approval of the Cyprus National Bioethics Committee. Therefore, samples and data of such collections are available through the Biobank Management in communication with the researchers in charge of such cohorts.

For a fair number of donors, the Biobank stores high molecular weight genomic DNA, plasma and serum and for certain cohorts, urine.

All biological material is banked in -80oC freezers.

Data and samples are archived for the following conditions:

1. Healthy volunteers
2. Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease
3. Familial hematurias / hematuric nephropathies:Alport syndrome
  • Thin basement membrane nephropathy
  • Complement factor H related 5 (CFHR5) nephropathy (C3                  glomerulopathy) Of unknown etiology
  • MUC1 kidney disease (formerly known as medullary cystic                  kidney disease type 1)
4. Cystinuria
5. Distal renal tubular acidosis
6. Nephrotic syndrome and focal segmental glomerulosclerosis
7. Other very rare inherited kidney conditions
8. Hereditary nephropathies of unknown aetiology
9. Inherited heart conditions
10. Systemic lupus erythematosus
11. Various psychiatric conditions

Expansion of CY-Biobank with European

and state funding

In a joint partnership with the Medical University of Graz, the European Biobanking consortium BBMRI-ERIC, and the research company RTD Talos, the Molecular Medicine Center of the University of Cyprus successfully applied to the European Commission program scheme H2020-WIDESPREAD-01-2018-2019: Teaming Phase 2 and was awarded €15 million in order to further its research capacity and upgrade its medical biobanking infrastructure to match European standards.  The project is entitled:

Biobanking and the Cyprus Human Genome Project (CY-Biobank)

It is supplemented by another €15 million by the Government of Cyprus and another €8 million by the University of Cyprus for a duration of 15 years, October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2034. Amongst the objectives of the new funding is the enhancement of the biobanking activity in terms of numbers of donors and disease conditions to serve. At the same time, it is of paramount importance to implement and maintain quality management measures in order to attract interested parties to exploit the banked data and material and secure trust to research results. To this end, the quality management of the Biobank is working on satisfying the requirements for ISO 9001 and ISO 20387.

Biobank & The Cyprus Human Genome Project

CY-Biobank essentially aims to upgrade MMRC into a Center of Excellence in Biobanking and Biomedical Research. The two main pillars of the project are:

1) To upgrade the existing Biobank of the University of Cyprus with a certified European-standards contemporary Biobanking infrastructure, connected to the European Research Infrastructure BBMRI-ERIC network, the largest Biobank directory in the world. It is designed to be a Green Biobank, deriving electric power from photovoltaic panels.

2) To upgrade the research infrastructure facilities with a capacity to launch genetics/genomics projects making use of a wealth of archived high-quality biomaterial and associated clinical data, paving the way to better understanding and treating diseases in a patient-centric approach.

During the first 7 years, the project aims to archive medical records and biological material from more than 16,000 volunteers, including 2000 healthy people with the aim to canvas the architecture of the Cypriot reference genome. The research activities of MMRC are quite diverse, with an interest in all diseases with a genetic component, either of monogenic Mendelian inheritance or complex multifactorial aetiology. It aims at the development and maintenance of a Center of Excellence, concentrating on the improvement of human health, through promoting research, innovation and education.