Building Biorepositories in the Midst of a Pandemic
Biospecimen repositories play a vital role in enabling investigation of biologic mechanisms, identification of disease-related biomarkers, advances in diagnostic assays, recognition of microbial evolution, and characterization of new therapeutic targets for intervention. They rely on the complex integration of scientific need, regulatory oversight, quality control in collection, processing and tracking, and linkage to robust phenotype information. The COVID-19 pandemic amplified many of these considerations and illuminated new challenges, all while academic health centers were trying to adapt to unprecedented clinical demands and heightened research constraints not witnessed in over 100 years. The outbreak demanded rapid understanding of SARS-CoV-2 to develop diagnostics and therapeutics, prompting the immediate need for access to high quality, well-characterized COVID-19-associated biospecimens. We surveyed 60 Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) hubs to better understand the strategies and barriers encountered in biobanking before and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Feedback revealed a major shift in biorepository model, specimen-acquisition and consent process from a combination of investigatorinitiated and institutional protocols to an enterprise-serving strategy. CTSA hubs were well equipped to leverage established capacities and expertise to quickly respond to the scientific needs of this crisis through support of institutional approaches in biorepository management.