The incredible breakthroughs in medicine that have occurred over the last decade have provided us with a glimpse of the future – a future centered on personalized treatment. More and more, medical care professionals will begin to offer individually suited healthcare recommendations and treatment plans to their patients, basing their suggestions and prescriptions on patient characteristics, genetics, and habits.
A Doorway to the Future of Medicine
We are not there yet. More research must be undertaken to better understand the connection between a person’s genetic profile or lifestyle, and their risk of developing particular diseases. It was towards this end that Prof. Varda Shalev established the Tipa Biobank™ Research initiative, to further advance the arrival of truly personalized medicine.
The goal of the Biobank is to create a repository of biological samples (blood, saliva, urine, feces, etc.) to be used for research. An example of how the Biobank samples could be used in research is to identify a new biomarker in urine samples, which could become a tool for early detection of disease.
Since the Biobank’s launch in December 2007, there has been a nationwide operation, led by Daniella Beller, to recruit patients and collect samples, which are now stored in the Biobank vault.
The samples were contributed by consenting donors from among Maccabi’s 2.5 million members, at any one of Maccabi’s 350 phlebotomy labs. The collection will continue over the years to come – some samples will be contributed by the same patients year after year, enabling a wide range of longitudinal studies on a multitude of medical conditions. Simultaneously, new biological and genetic information will be collected to enrich Maccabi’s databank, improving on and expanding the options for conducting advanced medical research projects, and providing further advancements to personalized health.
Placing our Patients First
Maccabi members have entrusted us with their information. Safeguarding their interests and privacy is of the utmost importance to us. We have therefore taken the following steps:
• All members joining the biobank are asked to sign the Tipa informed consent form after receiving a detailed explanation from Tipa Biobanktm representatives.
• Participants can choose to withdraw from the biobank at any time.
• Participants samples and data are kept anonymous and managed separately from their personal medical files.
The Biobank team has established an ethics approval process. This requires each study request to be examined in depth by a committee of physicians, researchers, ethics specialists, industry representatives and Maccabi officials. Once a research study has been approved, it must then go through the ethics committee (IRB) for further review and approval.
We have also committed to the participants of the Tipa initiative that if, in the course of a research project, a sample is incidentally identified as having a risk for developing a certain disease, that sample’s donor will be notified and sent for genetic counseling.
Biobank members are given a rare opportunity to help scientific progress. Donating samples blood to the BioBank enables numerous researches to progress simultaneously in multiple fields. The BioBank supports projects that are seeking cures for disease, methods of early diagnosis, ways to prevent illness and improve health and wellbeing on a global scale. Just think – a few minutes of your time, and just a few drops of blood, can be part of a global-scale effort to create a better future.