Towards “research in a box”

May 13th, 2008 by dwentworth

At Science Commons, we want to bring the same efficiency to scientific research that the Web brought to commerce. Our Materials Transfer Agreement project isn’t just about contracts — it’s about bringing together all the resources on the Web for finding and ordering materials and getting towards one-click access, with the goal of accelerating discovery.

Chris Kronenthal of the Coriell Institute for Medical Research has an article this week in Bio-IT World that explores the role of “biobanks” in scientific innovation, including a description of our MTA project that puts it in a broader context:

In [fostering growth], biorepositories will have two primary contributions. The first, likely industry changing, will be that of providing “research in a box.” Modern, matured biorepositories have come a long way in streamlining the many processes involved in R&D (materials processing, storage and management, consent management), allowing researchers to focus on tracking their own results. With solid platforms for distribution, like Coriell’s first-of-a-kind Google (“Mini”) driven eCommerce catalogue of specimens and data, researchers can quickly identify which subjects they are interested in, procure said samples, and download phenotypic, genotypic, and any other relevant knowledge pool data.

In an effort to spur progress by reducing the barriers on the distribution of materials for research, too often locked away in various biobanks, organizations such as Science Commons have recognized the need to standardize current hurdles such as locating specimens across various biobanks and the authorizing of material transfer agreements (or MTAs), thus providing a level of accessibility and fluidity to the normally snag-prone process. […]

[Science Commons VP] Wilbanks is clear on the pivotal role that biorepositories will play in furthering research and personalized medicine: “Right now, we’re stuck in a pre-industrial culture of tool making and transfer, where scientists have to beg labs to stop doing research and start making tools… It’s absurd that tool making is slowing down even a single experiment if there’s a way to avoid it. We have the tools, the technologies and the legal systems to bring all the benefits of eCommerce to biological tool making – it just takes the willpower of [donors] and universities – but the entire system rests on biobanks for fulfillment. Scientists don’t get grants for fulfilling orders for cells.”

You can read the entire piece here.

Update (May 14): Plausible Accuracy responds: “It’s amazing to me that it’s taken this long to sort of start generating significant interest in validated, standardized, open repositories.  The clones, cell lines, mice, etc that we generate in great quantities need a better method of sharing and distribution than some antiquated version of quid pro quo.”

One Response

  1. Your personal health: Frameworks for access to sampes and information : business|bytes|genes|molecules, on May 23rd, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    […] the Science Commons blog, I learned about efforts at the Coriell Insititute to provide what they are calling research in a […]