Survey of Biobanks 2013

In mid 2013 ABNA conducted an electronic survey of biobanks around Australia. The survey was delivered by emailed invitation to the full member list of ABNA, over 90 individuals. The aim of this survey was to provide a snapshot of the biobanking ‘landscape’ across the country. ABNA will repeat the survey over time, providing data on the impact of the changing funding situation with the retraction of infrastructure funding from the NH&MRC.

No identifying information was collected and participation was voluntary. Although participation rate was low, the data obtained is informative and will be built upon over the coming year.

Of the 16 respondents, the majority (15) are involved in banking oncology biospecimens, with 2 of these banks focussing on paediatric cancers. One biobank collects biospecimens from donors with psychiatric diseases and neurological diseases. The oldest bank was established in 1988 and the most recent collections began in 2012.

Information is available from 11 of the biobanks regarding sources of funding. Table 1 illustrates the breakdown of funding sources.

Funding Source Number of biobanks
NH&MRC only 0
NH&MRC and one other* 4
NH&MRC and two others* 2
State Cancer Council/Agency only 2
State Cancer Council and one other* 1
University operations funding 1
Philanthropic funding only 1


*’Other’ includes National Breast Cancer Foundation, Parkinsons Victoria, Leukaemia Foundation, Prostate Cancer Foundation

T he business model across these biobanks varies however, all but 2 of the 16 biobanks were supported in-kind by their respective host institutions through provision of floor space, utilities and staff support infrastructure such as Human Resources, Payroll, Occupational Health & Safety services, etc.

We have been provided with total operational budget for 12 of the responding biobanks for the 2011-2012 FY. Range is between $100,000 to $600,000 with an average operating budget of $266,000

Cost recovery fees are levied by 75% of the responding biobanks. Cost recovery income over the ’11-’12 FY varies from $0 to $100,000. The majority of banks report income of less than $50,000 from this mechanism for the period.

It is interesting to note that even at the highest recovery rate of $100,000, this income represents 16% of the total operating costs for that biobank for the 11-12 financial year.

Cost recovery rates as a percentage of total operational costs vary from 4% to 20% and so it is clear that this income must be augmented in every example.

The survey will be re-issued in the coming month. Although not identified, it is possible to match repeat data from biobanks participating in previous surveys.