Turkish university set to launch country's first biobank

Published 23.11.2015 20:38

A university in central Turkey readied the country's first biobank, a repository for DNA and RNA samples, as well as umbilical cord blood, in an effort for a better fight against diseases.

Biobank, which will be launched in 2016 by Erciyes University, will allow researchers to collect and store at least 3 million samples. Samples will be used in determining the genetic features of both people and the diseases they are subject to, and in return, will help scientists develop tailor-made treatments for patients.Professor Yusuf Özkul, director of the university's Genome and Stem Cell Center, which will oversee the biobank, said the repository would be the first-of-its-kind in Turkey. He said collected cells and other organic materials will be especially helpful in providing faster results in studies for the treatment of rare diseases and diseases that are difficult to diagnosis and treat. "Personalized medicine will be more common in the future, so we need to define genetic characteristics of the society to that extent. Data from the biobank will help us with this matter. For instance, cancer treatment chemotherapy sessions should be varied in their intensity in line with patients' needs. Biobank will allow us to determine the correct dosage for each patient," Özkul said. He added that biobank will also keep umbilical cord blood, which is usually thrown away due to the lack of storage units, but is essential for the treatment of bone marrow cancers.

Biobank also aims to help with the development of new drugs from the pharmaceutical industry, especially in testing the drugs on live cells stored in the repository. Özkul said biobank would be the key to the testing of drugs entering the Turkish market, for example, drugs intended for cancer treatment. "Biobank will let us know whether any new drug is efficient for treating diseases Turkish people suffer from, as a drug effective at treating one country's population, can be ineffective at treating people in another country," he said, stressing the genetic differences.

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