In order to develop healthcare, Latvia needs a Biobank Law

  • 2023-10-27

Biobanks, whose main role is to store biological samples and data for research and treatment purposes, have become a key infrastructure in biomedical research and healthcare. Biobanks provide storage of biological samples, such as blood, tissue and DNA, which are usually supplemented with detailed clinical and demographic data. These samples are very valuable to researchers who aim to discover the genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors that cause or contribute to disease. By offering a centralized repository of diverse samples, biobanks facilitate large-scale, population-based studies, allowing researchers to find correlations, generate hypotheses, and develop new treatments. Without biobanks, such research is not possible today.

Biobanks are also useful in the development of new diagnostic tools. By comparing samples from healthy individuals to patients with specific conditions, researchers can identify biomarkers - molecules that indicate the presence of disease. These biomarkers can then be used to develop diagnostic tests that are more accurate and less invasive than traditional methods.

By providing access to a wide range of samples, biobanks allow pharmaceutical companies to test potential drugs in different populations, ensuring that they will be effective. In addition, samples from patients with rare diseases can be studied, which would take a long time to find and involve in research.

In the era of precision medicine that has already entered healthcare, treatments are tailored to individual patients based on their genetic characteristics or other individual information. By making the information available in biobanks available to physicians, it is possible to quickly identify population- or even individual-specific characteristics that can be used to initiate treatment that will be effective for a given patient, reducing adverse side effects and improving outcomes.

Biobanks operate under strict ethical guidelines, ensuring that samples are taken with informed consent and that personal data is protected. This not only protects the rights and dignity of the participants - but also ensures that research results are robust and reliable, which is not always possible in individual studies.

Latvia has a lot of experience in the field of creating biobanks, and we can be proud of the Latvian National Biobank - Genome Database of Latvian population (GDLP), which with more than 40,000 members is one of the largest in Europe. It is the GDLP established by the Latvian Biomedical Research and Study Center and its active activity that has enabled serious research of the genome and many other molecular factors to develop. The infrastructure created within the framework of VIGDB has also ensured Latvia's full participation in the new European initiative "1+ million genomes", which will provide the next level for the use of genomic data in healthcare.

However, now more than ever, it is necessary to take the next step and ensure a full-fledged biobank development process. One of the most important tasks is the approval of the Law on Biobanks, which would open the possibility for the creation of new biobanks because the current conditions significantly limit the sustainable use of samples and data collected in research. Creating specialized biobanks for different areas and needs, which cooperate with each other in a single network, is one of the main goals of the necessary development of biobanks and the field of precision medicine. Also in this direction, Latvia has all the advantages to ensure rapid growth, because Latvia is an official partner in the European-level infrastructure BBMRI-ERIC, which aims to develop the network structures of national biobanks and connect them into a single European infrastructure. which perfectly suits the purpose of the proposed project. The BBMRI_ERIC national node has been established in Latvia, which already coordinates the cooperation of several biobanks in Latvia and has guaranteed the successful integration of the BBMRI.LV national network into BBMRI-ERIC, providing resources for biomedical research both at the local and international level.

As one example of the development of such a specialized biobank, an international Memorandum of Understanding was recently concluded between the Children's Clinical University Hospital, the Latvian Biomedical Research and Study Center, the Karolinska Institute and the Oslo University Hospital on the development of the "Latvian Children's Malignant Tumor Biobank" for data collection and storage, creating a bridge between research and treatment, improving diagnosis and treatment of children with oncological diseases, as well as expanding the contribution of Latvian scientists to international cancer research projects.

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The publication is implemented in cooperation with Latvian Investment and Development Agency the European Regional Development Fund project "Support for the improvement of the technology transfer system" (project identification number, implementing ERDF 1.2.1. of the specific support objective "Increase private sector investments in R&D".