Raising to the Challenge: Building a Biobank to Accelerate COVID-19 Research

To empower research that moves from the lab bench to the bedside, Island Health is establishing a Vancouver Island COVID-19 Biobank in collaboration with the BC Cancer Agency, UBC Faculty of Medicine, and other health authorities. The biobank will gather data and biological specimens like blood and plasma samples from COVID-19 patients across the region. These samples will enable new insights into the virus. Early research will focus on tests to better detect the coronavirus, and identify features relevant to diagnosis and personalized treatment. The samples will also help researchers understand the complications of the disease over the long term.

Dr. Michael Chen, a clinical pathologist with Island Health and co-chair of the provincial COVID-19 biobanking working group, will lead the biobank.

“As the response to COVID-19 continues, our biobank will play an integral part in improving population health, advancing care, and enhancing research collaborations,” says Dr. Chen.

The bank is up and running and ready to collect samples, and the team is also exploring ways to support research beyond the current pandemic. They’re collaborating with the Cognitive Health Initiative to support dementia research, and with the University of Victoria’s Genome BC Proteomics Centre. By collecting and storing a range of samples for future research, the biobank will build significant capacity for research right here on the Island and will be accessible to researchers across the country.

The biobank was made possible through funding from the Victoria Hospitals Foundation and the UBC Faculty of Medicine, with support and expertise from Island Health’s Research Department.