Biosample Hub, which is based in Wales, is a new worldwide platform providing a game-changing solution to enable researchers in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry to obtain the biosamples they need.

Left-over clinical material like blood samples and excised tissue may be medical waste, but it can also be research treasure. This material is needed by researchers for the development of new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines.

However, biosample procurement is not easy for industry. According to recent research 80 per cent of companies in the UK found accessing patient samples unexpectedly difficult.

Industry uses two main approaches for biosample procurement, but both have their issues. One approach is to consult a biobank directory, but these are difficult for non-specialists to navigate, given all the medical terminology. Also, many biobanks listed do not want to supply industry, which gives rise to false leads and wasted time.

Another approach is to use a commercial broker, many of whom are based in the USA. However, their networks are deficient in many parts of the world, including Western Europe because of serious ethical concerns about the sale of human biological samples.

As a result, in these areas where commercial brokers are poorly accepted, vast biosample resources are inaccessible to industry.

Specific concerns often voiced about commercial brokers include a lack of financial transparency and lack of sample traceability: brokers rarely reveal the source of their samples to avoid circumvention and resulting loss of customers. This in turn means that recipients of samples don’t always get all the information they need about a sample. And, because they don’t know where or by whom it was collected, there are concerns about standardisation of sample procurement and storage. In turn, this leads to a reduction in trust, and a lack of confidence in the samples.

Despite all their disadvantages, commercial brokers are still major suppliers of samples for Industry. Why? Because until now there has been almost no realistic alternative.

“The current system is broken. It’s not working well for biobanks or for the companies looking for samples. Therefore, I’ve made it my mission to create a solution. Biosample Hub is that solution.” says Robert Hewitt MB BS, PhD, from Carmarthenshire and founder of Biosample Hub.

Biosample Hub is a social enterprise that provides a unique online platform allowing member biobanks and companies to interact in an open and transparent way, with personal support, provided by Biosample Hub, as needed.

The user-friendly platform includes directories of biobanks, companies and requests, together with social networking features. Consequently, there are no sample traceability issues, and much greater trust and confidence. Furthermore, given that 100 per cent of biobanks on the platform have actively chosen to be listed so that they can work with industry, there are no false leads for companies – saving a considerable amount of time.

Essential features of Biosample Hub include its not-for-profit status and complete financial transparency. Any net profit is divided between necessary reinvestment in the company and donation to research charities, selected by members and the advisory panel. Revenue comes from the annual subscriptions paid by company members. This removes ethical concerns and there has already been a high level of acceptance from hospital biobanks in Western Europe with transparency one of the key drivers.

Founder, Robert Hewitt is a biobanking pioneer with over 30 years international experience in the field. He has established biobanks in London, Riyadh and Singapore and has served as President of the ISBER International Biobanking Association and as Co-founder and Executive Officer of the ESBB Biobanking Association, 2010 – 17. Hewitt was recipient of the ISBER Distinguished Service and Leadership Award in 2011 and the ISBER Outstanding Achievement in Biobanking Award in 2012. He is supported by an advisory panel of distinguished experts from the fields of academia, industry and law.

Robert is based in Carmarthenshire, and is part of BioAccelerate 2020, which is run by AberInnovation in Aberystwyth.

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