Back Banking on biology

Banking on biology

A project like GenV is only made possible by the thousands of families who have signed up to take part. But behind the scenes, technology also plays a crucial role to ensure researchers now and into the future are well-placed to understand the biology of childhood health outcomes.  

The GenV biobank was developed and built to store important biological samples in a safe and secure way for future laboratory analysis. It recently became fully operational, storing the first saliva samples provided by GenV families. This state-of-the-art infrastructure is located at Melbourne Children’s Campus, a partnership between The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, University of Melbourne, and The Royal Children’s Hospital.    

Professor Richard Saffery, Deputy Director of Bio Sciences for GenV, explained that the GenV biobank is one-of-a-kind and will transform the way samples are stored and accessed. 

 “The GenV biobank will be one of the world’s biggest pregnancy and childhood sample repositories with capacity to store millions of sensitive biological samples at -80 degrees Celsius. It was purpose-built to accommodate the large number of samples we’re expecting as part of our world-leading research project. 

“What is so special about our biobank is that it is fully automated, with robotics managing the introduction, sorting and picking of samples while preserving temperature stability. It has multiple levels of built in redundancy to ensure these precious samples are safely stored. This is a game-changer in terms of efficiency and security,” he said. 

 Professor Saffery said that in the past, batching collections of frozen samples for processing and analysis would have taken multiple staff up to many weeks to identify and isolate. 

“Now, a similar collection can be done by automation overnight. And because the sorting is done at -80 degrees Celsius, the samples have far greater integrity, longevity and utility. 

“What is most important is how these samples will support greater research efforts and understanding of common child and adult health issues. By looking at the biological samples generously provided by GenV participants, researchers can identify biomarkers to refine clinical diagnoses or predict long-term health outcomes. 

“The possibilities that GenV has to improve health outcomes is so exciting, and technology advances such as our biobank will help to realise this vision,” he concluded.  

GenV is led by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital and The University of Melbourne and is funded by the Paul Ramsay Foundation (PRF), the Victorian Government and The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation.