Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Reflection on the BioRepository and Sample Management Conference

About the author: Alex Gelman is the Managing Partner of Poplar Partners, an investment firm looking to acquire a company in the biorepository space. Before founding Poplar Partners, he worked at KKR Capstone, the operating arm of private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis and Roberts, and at McKinsey &Co. He has an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a BA from Dartmouth College.

A Reflection on the BioRepository and Sample Management Conference

As I reflect on the Biorepository and Sample Management Conference from a couple weeks ago, I wanted to share some thoughts I had on the conference.

Amelia Wall Warner kicked the conference with a quote from a June 2010 Wired Magazine, “Each vial represents the trace of a human life launched into the future in hopes of a cure that will benefit others”. What an excellent way to kick off a conference that focuses on an industry that is fundamentally dedicated to saving lives. Whether we are involved in the non-profit side or for-profit side, whether we are researchers, physicians, sales reps, or investors, we are all involved in an industry that is fundamentally trying to better the world by finding cures for diseases.

What’s even more impressive is that despite the scientific, legal, technical, and economic complexity of the industry, the ethics of biobanking kept top billing at the conference. In particular two themes jumped out at me regarding ethical issues in biobanking: managing informed consent and improving collaboration.

Ensuring informed consent is given by patients and is tracked with samples was a recurring conversation at the conference. Philip Branton talked about the importance of ensuring informed consent as a criteria for CAP accreditation. Mark Collins told us about BioFortis’ efforts to tie consent to samples to ensure all samples are usable. Lori Ball kicked off the standardization workshop group by asking us to think ‘beyond’ informed consent.

In addition to informed consent, increasing collaboration was a frequent ethical issue that was discussed. Collaboration may not seem like an ‘ethical’ challenge, but with so many dollars, reputations, and prestige at play in biomedical research, collaboration is more challenging than one would hope for. Helen Moore asked us to consider the roadblocks to international collaboration and challenged us to work through them. I was pleasantly pleased to see two different attempts at increasing collaboration, on both sides of the ‘pond’. Franceso Moscone told us about the BIOPOOL project in Europe and Peter Kulseza told us about the NCI/ECOG-ACRIN project hear in the US. At times the room got a bit heated when discussing collaboration and the sharing of valuable samples. That just reinforced the importance of continuing to work at the goal of increased global collaboration.

It truly was a pleasure to see biobanking practioners and those interested in the field coming together to work through the ethical challenges of the industry.

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for the insightful article Alex. It's good to see different parties coming to the together and working through the challenges that face biobanking. The ethical and logistical aspects are real. Needless to say technology will play large role in this space, especially with consent management. Here is an article one of my colleagues wrote on that topic. Are you planning on attending any other biobanking conferences soon?

I look forward to your future posts.


Unknown said...

Glad you enjoyed the article, Shaun. I enjoyed yours as well. You are 100% right that technology will be critical in dealing with consent management. I think 5AM solutions has an interesting approach to the problem. Good luck! No other biobanking conferences in my near future.


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