Friday, March 7, 2014

Enabling research with the Partners Biobank

Three years ago, investigators at the MGH and Brigham and Women’s Hospital launched the Partners HealthCare Biobank, a program designed to accelerate medical research and cut related costs across the Partners system. The Partners Biobank stores blood samples from patients who choose to participate in the program. These blood samples are linked to clinical data from the electronic medical record and to data on family history, lifestyle and environmental factors that are collected in an online survey.

These samples and information are made available to Partners researchers to study how genes, environment and other factors affect health and contribute to disease. “Our objective is to accelerate and improve the way in which research discoveries are translated into clinical care,” says Scott T. Weiss, MD, principal investigator for the Partners Biobank and scientific director of the Partners Center for Personalized Genetic Medicine. “With the increase of ‘omics’ focused research and the requirement for large cohorts of patients, the Biobank is positioned to play a critical role in catalyzing translational and personalized medicine at all of our hospitals.” 

To date, more than 12,000 patients have joined the study, bringing the Partners Biobank closer to the goal of recruiting 75,000 participants over the next four years. To participate, patients must review and sign a consent form, provide a small blood sample and complete a short survey. Elizabeth Karlson, MD, co-director of the Partners Biobank and director of Rheumatic Disease Epidemiology at BWH, says, “Biobank staff worked closely with the Institutional Review Board to develop the consent form that asks patients to provide consent for broad-based research. Unlike other studies, we are not asking patients to participate in disease-specific research. We are asking them to participate in all research for the greater good of all our patients.”

Jordan Smoller, MD, ScD, director of the Psychiatric and Neurodevelopment Genetics Unit at the MGH Center for Human Genetics Research and co-director of the Partners Biobank, says, “The Biobank has the potential to become a research resource that will help keep our hospitals at the forefront of medical discovery nationally and internationally. Ultimately, it will help us improve clinical care and provide new ways to personalize treatment so we can find the best treatment for each patient. ”

The Partners Biobank has been hosting a series of voluntary events at the MGH called DNA Days. These provide MGH employees the opportunity to participate in this program and contribute to potential discoveries that may help drive medical discovery.

For more information about the Partners Biobank, visit For more information about DNA Days, visit 

Read more articles from the 03/07/14 Hotline issue.


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