Integrity Excellence Innovation

October 2010 

Biobank Brief


Welcome to the second edition of the Victorian Cancer Biobank's e-newsletter.  AusBiotech 2010 is being held next week and we would like to invite interested readers to attend the trade exhibition as our guest on Thursday 21 October.  Read on for more information about this as well as news about some exciting new technologies and initiatives and the activities of our committees.

Access Committee News

Researchers will be aware that the Biobank's Access Committee is responsible for the review and approval of applications and also makes recommendations to the Consortium Committee on issues relating to researcher access to biospecimens.  It met in September to discuss changes to the application forms with a view to simplifying the forms and making them more user-friendly and its recommendations will be put to the Consortium Committee at its next meeting on 27 October.

The resignations of two members - Assoc Prof Brian Dean (Mental Health Research Institute) and Ms Fairlie Hinton (National Neuroscience Facility) - were accepted and the hunt is now on for people with similar backgrounds in brain banking to replace them.  Joanne Edgar would welcome any suggestions of interested people and she can be contacted by emailing Applications Manager.


Reformed Informatics Committee

IT managers from the Biobank sites of Austin Health, Melbourne Health, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Southern Health have joined with the Cancer Council Victoria's IT Manager, the Biobank's pathology registrar at Melbourne Health, and representatives from BioGrid Australia and the Victorian Partnership for Advanced Computing to reform the Biobank Informatics Committee.

The objectives of the Committee are to:

  • advise on the planning, development and implementation of an informatics platform to meet the Biobank's needs
  • develop specifications for software products
  • evaluate products and services available from external providers
  • establish and manage links with other cancer information initiatives. 

The Committee has met twice since June and is being kept up to date with developments in the Cresalys biospecimen inventory management database, and the Aperio digital imaging system.

Interested researchers in the four hospital precincts are reminded that the Aperio system is fully operational and available for use.  You are invited to contact your tissue bank manager for a quick demonstration of its functions.  Aperio's features include its excellent image quality and range of applications for image analysis.  Up to 120 glass slides can be scanned at one time and converted into digital images, which can be viewed, analysed and annotated by pathologists located remotely.

Another exciting project is the building of an online biospecimen inventory viewer that will enable researchers to query the availability of biospecimens via the Biobank website.  The viewer will also provide a connection to BioGrid through which biospecimen information will be linked to clinical data, in particular survival and recurrence data, post operative treatment and treatment outcomes via databases at hospitals connected to BioGrid.  Researchers will be able to access data linked to biospecimens through a single application process.

Pathologists to access remote digital imaging technology

A unique partnership is being established between the Hume Regional Integrated Cancer Service and the Victorian Cancer Biobank by providing pathologists at the Urological Pathology Cancer Project with remote access to the Aperio digital imaging system.

Under the partnership, pathologists at the UPC project in Albury-Wodonga will be able to send slides to a site in Melbourne where Biobank staff will scan them and store the images on a central server.  Pathologists in Melbourne and Albury-Wodonga will then have joint on-line access to the images from their desktop computers, enabling simultaneous review of the same digital image by multiple participants in remote locations. 

It is expected that the project will go live early in 2011.  The Hume RICS and the Biobank acknowledge the support and funding from the Victorian Cancer Agency in developing this project.

Melbourne Health purchases Agilent 2100 Bioanalyser

Tissue bank staff at Melbourne Health are eagerly awaiting delivery of its latest purchase, an Agilent 2100 Bioanalyser, the industry standard for RNA and DNA sample QC.  The Bioanalyser is a microfluidics-based platform for sizing, quantification and quality control of DNA, RNA, proteins and cells on a single platform.  Results are delivered within 30-40 minutes in automated, high quality digital data.

"This bioanalyser will determine the quality of the RNA we extract and it will be very useful for researchers and their downstream applications", Matthew Chapman, RMH's tissue bank manager, said.  "Many modern technologies need high quality RNA and we'll be using the machine to provide the best possible quality RNA to researchers."

The equipment will be available to researchers and pathology departments wanting to determine the quality of their RNA prior to use.  The bioanalyser is expected to arrive by the end of October.


Trade Afternoon at AusBiotech 2010

The Victorian Platform Technologies Network is exhibiting at AusBiotech 2010 next week and the Biobank is one of several member organisations participating under its banner.

If you are interested in visiting the trade exhibition, a trade afternoon has been scheduled for Thursday 21 October to provide general access for invited guests to attend the BioIndustry Exhibition and engage with industry.  The organisers advise that all attendees must have a conference registration, exhibitor pass or trade afternoon pass to attend, so this will be the only time that anyone other than exhibitors and delegates will be permitted access to the trade hall.

Event details:


Thursday 21 October 2010


2.30pm - 5.30pm


BioIndustry Exhibition Hall, Melbourne Exhibition Centre


Please complete the Trade Afternoon Registration Form and give to AusBiotech staff at the registration desk on arrival to obtain your Trade Pass.



Quality program

Paul Pinto Correia, Quality and Training Manager, has completed a quality audit of the collection centres at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Southern Health, Melbourne Health, Austin Health and St John of God Pathology, Geelong, with a view to meeting the Biobank's commitment to streamlining supply and adhering to standardised comprehensive quality reporting of biospecimens.

The Biobank is well placed to achieve compliance with ISBER Best Practice for Repositories (collection, storage, retrieval and distribution of biological materials for research), and ISO 9000 standards (which represents an international consensus on quality management practices).  Detailed results will be considered by the Consortium Committee at its next meeting at the end of October.

Conferences and events

The Biobank is proud to announce its involvement with the AHMRC Conference and ABN Meeting - two key industry events between now and the end of the year. 

Sponsorship of afternoon tea on day 1 of the Australian Health and Medical Research Conference (Melbourne, 14-18 November 2010) will provide support to the afternoon session that focuses on the genetics of colorectal cancer.

The Australasian Biospecimen Network meeting (Brisbane, 2 December 2010) will explore issues relating to tissue banking practice and positioning, in particular how biobanking underpins translational research.  The conference is a key annual event and will be well attended by the Biobank's staff of medical scientists.

Another event of interest is being hosted by the Bio21 Cluster, of which the Biobank is a member.  A System Biology Symposium "Moving Towards the Next Generation Biology" will be held on 4 November at the Bio21 Institute in Parkville, Melbourne.  Registration is free and available on the Bio21 website.

Joanne Edgar recently attended the Global Biobanking 2010 (London, 27-29 September 2010) conference which focussed on biobanking for the pharmaceutical industry.  It was worthwhile in learning the needs of this industry and finding out how the Biobank can work with pharmaceutical companies.

Welcome to new staff

Yassar HameedThe Biobank's data manager, Michael Schwarz, who was welcomed in the June edition of Biobank Brief, has returned to Israel at short notice for family reasons and his position has been filled by Yassar Hameed (pictured right).  Yassar is a qualified medical scientist who recently worked with Gribbles Pathology as a histological technician.   

Shannon MarantelliMelbourne Health has appointed Shannon Marantelli (above left) to its vacant medical scientist position.  Originally from Perth, Shannon has left Western Diagnostic Pathology where she was a cytogenetic scientist performing chromosomal analysis on various samples. 

Over at Peter MacCallum, Kimberley Ong commenced in a similar tissue bank scientist position several weeks ago and has settled into the team well.

We also welcome two new pathology registrars - Dr Poh Yen Yeo at Cabrini Health and Dr Nada Dickinson at Southern Health. 


Our collection and how to apply

The Biobank provides biospecimens prepared from a collection of blood and tissue samples, taken with consent from healthy individuals and patients diagnosed with cancer.  Some information about the health and treatment of the donors is also collected. The tissue that is collected following surgery is in excess of what is required for diagnosis and would otherwise be discarded.

Step 1
Go to to read and download the following documents:

Information on how to apply and conditions of use
Cost recovery schedule
Overview of application forms

Step 2

Go to Application for Biospecimens and download the Application for Human Biospecimens form relevant to your application.  Complete and submit electronically or by mail according to the instructions given.

Step 3
The Biobank Access Committee will assess your application; this process usually takes two weeks.

Step 4

Upon approval, a Materials Transfer Agreement or Services Agreement that includes costs will be forwarded to you.  As soon as we receive the signed agreement your biospecimens will be prepared for dispatch and/or prospective collection will commence.