25 February 2016
The Keneba Biobank, within MRC Keneba field station, is a data and sample repository capturing the whole of the rural population of the Kiang West District of The Gambia (recently described in a Cohort Profile in the International Journal of Epidemiology, Hennig BJ et al 2015).
The overall goal is to better understand how health and disease are affected by genetic and environmental factors to further the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of illness, especially those prevalent in low- and middle-income settings. Initiated in May 2012, the Keneba Biobank has now reached a significant milestone, completing data and sample collection on 10,000 participants.
The Keneba Biobank represents a major platform for the MRC Unit The Gambia, and is an important part of our integrated system for research and health care provision in the region. The success of this programme is based on the exceptional long-term relationship with the local population, maintained through high levels of communication between MRCG staff and villages and with great care taken to ensure research ethics.
A custom-designed database and sample tracking system was developed locally and is used for all Biobank-related processes. Standardised age-group-specific data and biological samples are collected from all consenting individuals, with a limited number of analytical tests conducted on fresh specimens. All samples (incl. DNA) and data are banked for a wide range of research purposes.
This forms the basis for a number of collaborative studies aimed towards improving the health and development of the local population. There are also plans to widen the access to the international research community. Access is governed by the joint Gambian Government/MRC Unit The Gambia Ethics committee and the Keneba Biobank is part of the LMIC Biobank and Cohort Network (BCNet).
Recent years have seen a series of strategic investments to better understand and tackle health problems in low- and middle-income countries. The Keneba Biobank, in conjunction with our demographic surveillance and clinical platforms at MRC Keneba, provides the necessary sustainable research capability to address health capacity to address health needs in The Gambia and through joint international efforts elsewhere in the region.
Speaking about the success of the project, Principal Investigator Dr Branwen Hennig says “This is an exiting moment, the Keneba Biobank is a rich resource for health research relevant to sub-Saharan Africa, where malnutrition particularly in children, a heavy infectious disease burden and rising rates of non-communicable diseases in adults coexist”.
The Cohort Profile in the International Journal of Epidemiology (Hennig BJ et al 2015) on http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26559544
LMIC Biobank and Cohort Network (BCNet) on http://bcnet.iarc.fr/
MRC International Nutrition Group http://ing.mrc.ac.uk/home/research-areas/the-keneba-biobank/