New Biospecimens Coding Concept For Biorepositories, Biobanks Would Improve Sample Quality

New Biospecimens Coding Concept For Biorepositories, Biobanks Would Improve Sample Quality

SPREC biospecimens code for biorepositoriesWhen it comes to biospecimens, biorepositories and biobanks expend a great deal of effort and resources to ensure that the samples that they make available to researchers are optimal. Since researchers’ findings can be easily skewed as a result of samples that are not exactly what the researcher believes them to be, the reliability of a biorepository is dependent on its reputation for samples that live up to their billing. As the demands for high quality, accurate biospecimens increase worldwide in the research community, a new coding system for samples is being considered by experts in the research and biospecimens fields.

The concept being considered is for a new means of standardizing and categorizing bio samples. Referred to as Sample PRE-analytical Code (SPREC) in a new publication, this new system would seek to ensure that biospecimens are fit-for-purpose, so that samples would be guaranteed to match their descriptions for the specific analysis that they would be used for.

The SPREC coding system features a standardized, 7-element long code. Each element in the code indicates  a specific pre-analytical variable that is critical to research. This coding system, if applied across the broad spectrum of biorepositories and biobanks worldwide, would allow researchers to effectively account for variables across the process chain.


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According to an article on the Integrated Biobank at Luxembourg, “Depending on the type of downstream analysis (e.g. mutation, viability, protein analysis), different parameters during the collection, processing and storage need to be controlled, since they can have detrimental effects on sample quality. In an effort to harmonize the way these parameters, or pre-analytical variables, are identified and communicated to end-users, the Sample PRE-analytical Code (SPREC) was developed.”

In point of fact, the entire concept behind SPREC was developed at IBBL in a collaboration between Dr .Fay Betsou, Chief of Biospecimen Science at IBBL and other biorepository professionals affiliated with the ISBER (International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories). Europe has traditionally led in creating streamlined systems for giving researchers better access to biospecimens — a trend that the NIH in the U.S. is seeking to emulate.

There does not appear to be a great deal of objection to the SPREC concept at present, though the biospecimens community is continuing to engage in a dialogue about how best to implement and maintain it — particularly on a global level, so that it transcends various languages and taxonomies. A recent posting in the Experts Speak section of the journal Biopreservation & Biobanking  pointed out how biorepositories and research institutes across different sectors would need to account for various types of samples, from human specimens and stem cells, to biodiversity and environmental sample types.

However, Dr. Sabine Lehmann, Quality Manager at IBBL and co-author of the publication, remains optimistic that the trend in moving in the direction of a SPREC-like system: “The SPREC, as implemented at IBBL, is an invaluable element of a good quality management system. Especially for biobanks seeking certification or accreditation, sample annotation with SPREC means that you can easily trace and quantify whether quality objectives have been achieved.”

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