The BioBank allows researchers and collaborators to store valuable samples in a centralised purpose built core essential facility which maximises sample integrity. Researchers from other institutions are attracted to store valuable samples at an off-site, well managed biorepository as a disaster recovery option. This Facility provides researchers with high quality biological tissues and samples that will translate to better health outcomes for patients.

St Vincent’s Biobank was established in 2010 to provide St Vincent’s Hospital Darlinghurst campus researchers with infrastructure to manage valuable and high quality biological tissues and samples in support of biomedical research and clinical trials. The facility was purpose built to address many of the workplace health and safety issues with handling cryogenic fluids, pressurised gases and biospecimens which may be biologically hazardous eg. oncogenic, infectious microorganisms as well as genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The facility complies with a range of legislative and best practice standards.

St Vincent’s Centre for Applied Medical Research (AMR) is the lead Partner for the St Vincent’s Research Precinct for the provision of cryogenics infrastructure and is responsible for user training and maintenance of the infrastructure.

St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney endorsed a policy that recognizes the contribution that is made by those who donate human tissues and samples for medical research. This policy observes the fundamental ethical principle of respect of the donor, including the provision of fully informed consent, professional collection of samples and secure storage of materials and to maintain confidentiality and privacy.

While many biobanks are traditionally focussed on solid tumour and cancer tissue, the St Vincent’s repository also hold extensive collections of blood, tissue and derivative (plasma, serum, DNA, nucleic acid extracts, genetically modified organisms (GMO), reference materials, cell lines, CSF, body fluids) from individuals participating in clinical research projects primarily with HIV, viral hepatitis or a range other emerging infectious diseases (influenza, tuberculosis, sexually transmissible infections) of public health importance.

A significant feature of the AMR biorepository is careful management of many of the issues around ethics and compliance that pertain to the use of human blood and tissues in medical research. We seek to harmonise, wherever possible, technical procedures, material transfer agreements and consent forms between all parties involved to streamline administrative ‘red tape’ which can impede productive collaboration between contributors and collaborating researchers.

Contributions to the BioBank are received through a growing number of investigators through a variety of established and recognised networks across multiple sites often associated with large scale multicentre and international observational, epidemiological and clinical research studies.

The St Vincents Biobank services are available on a cost recovery basis and managed under a negotiated Service Agreement contract.

Capacity statement

There are 3 full time staff associated with the daily operation of the biobank particularly logistics and biospecimen processing. A further 2 staff are involved with nucleic acid extraction and custom analytical testing services     150sqm access controlled facility with design features and engineering controls providing atmospheric monitoring and safeguards to mitigate risks associated with compressed and cryogenic gases.

  •  4 x large capacity vapour phase nitrogen freezers = 320,000 vials (3,200 boxes)
  •  12 x large capacity ultracold -80 freezers = 408,000 vials (4,080 boxes)
  •  Combined total = 728,000 cryovials
  • The BioBank is reaching 60% capacity in nitrogen freezers and ultracold electric freezers. Storage capacity is constantly changing with movements into and out of the facility.
  • All freezers are connected to a network which enables continuous monitoring to GMP standard and temperatures are reported over a web enabled interface. Alarms are relayed to the team of responsible staff and there are a further three empty freezers are available in case of disaster recovery.
  • Intelligent inventory systems track the tissue sample location within the repository so researchers can efficiently retrieve material for their work in a systematic and traceable manner. (FreezerPro Web Enterprise)
  • In 2012, the AMR cryogenic facility was accredited by NATA for Medical Testing under the scope of accreditation awarded under the banner of the NSW State Reference Laboratory for HIV and St Vincent’s Pathology, SydPath.
  • Biospecimens may be submitted in primary form and processed for storage by BioBank staff (e.g. blood and body fluids, fractionated cells, nucleic acid extracts, CSF, genital secretions, swabs, tissue biopsies).
  • The BioBank also received biospecimens that have been processed off-site and provides purely inventory storage and management.
  • The AMR BioBank is considered a St Vincents Research Precinct Hub resource and is an affiliate member of the Sydney Alliance on Healthcare, Research and Teaching (SAHRT). A growing number of clinical research investigators are electing to store biospecimens in a well run facility on a fee for service basis.

Further information

Further details regarding fees and services provided may be directed to Ms Kate Merlin 02 8382 4942 (W,Th) or Philip Cunningham 02 8382 4900.