The St Vincent's BioBank was established in 2010 to provide researchers with high quality biological tissues and samples that will translate to better health outcomes for patients. The biorepository is a significant resource that carefully manages many of the issues around ethics and compliance that pertain to the use of human blood and tissues in medical research.The BioBank is located at St Vincent's Centre for Applied Medical Research in modern purpose built facilities.
St Vincents Hospital Sydney has endorsed policy that recognizes the contribution that is made by those who donate human tissues and samples for medical research and which observes the fundemental ethical principle of respect of the donor, including the provision of fully informed consent, profession collection of samples and secure storage of materials and to maintain the confidentiality and privacy.
The BioBank allows St Vincent's Campus researchers and collaborators to store valuable samples in a centralised purpose built core facility which maximises sample integrity. Medical researchers from other institutions are attracted to store valuable samples at an off-site, well managed biorepository as a disaster recovery option. Sophisticated computerised inventory systems have been developed that tracks the tissue sample location iwithin the repository so researchers can efficiently retrieve material for thier work in a systematic and traceable manner.
The BioBank in the Lowy Packer building is managed as an essential shared service for the Research Precinct by St Vincents Centre for Applied Research. This facility was purpose built for to address many of the occupational health and safety issues with handling cryogenic fluids, pressurised gases, extremely low temperature (as low as minus 196°C), samples which may be biologically hazadous eg. infectious microorganisms as well as genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The facility has the capacity for over 5 million samples which are all stored in 'suspended animation' which enables future biomedical research on living cells and tissue. The BioBank also is the home for a number of valuable 'Tissue Banks' which holds specimens collected from patients with a variety of diseases including cancer, HIV, viral hepatitis and heart disease. Tissue banks are valuable resources which enable researchers to study diseased samples with a view to develop treatments and better diagnostic tests.
Cryogenic storage at very low temperatures is presumed to provide an indefinite, if not near infinite, longevity to cells although the actual “shelf life” is rather difficult to prove. In experiments with dried seeds researchers found that there was noticeable variability in deterioration when samples were kept at different ‘frozen’ temperatures–even ultra cold ones. Temperatures below the glass transition point (Tg) of polyol's water solutions (around minus 136°C) appear to be accepted as the range where biological activity very substantially slows down, and minus 196°C (liquid phase of liquid nitrogen) is the preferred temperature for the storage of important specimens. While fridges, deep freezers and extra cold deep freezers, all similar to domestic ones, are used for many items, generally the ultra cold of liquid nitrogen at -196°C is required for successful preservation of the more complex biological structures to virtually stop all biological activity.