The national DNA bank in The Gambia, which was established in November 2000 by the MRC Unit The Gambia, is set to expand its current repository of approximately 50,000 DNA samples and associated data. The DNA bank is a major infrastructure for health research and serves as a repository of human DNA samples. Its operations are regulated by the provisions of the Gambia Ethics Committee for sample collection, archiving, data storage and privacy protection and is recognised by the World Health Organisation as the first biobank in Africa. With the broad aim of supporting studies on the genetics of complex diseases, the DNA bank facilitates research to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of diseases but focusing primarily on malaria, HIV and tuberculosis. The program will also be developed to enable the collection of samples for use in future research.
Biobanking is crucial to biomedical research as it promotes sharing of biological resources accross collaborating investigators with the aim of facilitating advancement in health improvement. Samples currently stored in the biobank include DNA derived from blood, urine and saliva but the broad aim is to expand to other sample types. For large sample collections to be fully utilised, it is vital to ensure the robust, accessible and accurate management of both specimens and data. Sample integrity is ensured through real-time temperature monitoring of cold storage devices and accurate sample identification.
Mathurin Diatta, DNA Bank Manager, said: “As a team, the focus is to meet the challenge of responsibly managing this important resource for the scientific community and to play a role in expanding the establishment of biobanks at other African sites through training and sharing our experiences with other research institutions”.
This article was first published in MRC- Life December-January Edition