Creating the new national tissue directory

16 Feb 2016 16:06:00.693

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The University of Nottingham is taking a leading role in coordinating the UKs first national tissue directory. This new resource aims to improve access to human tissue samples for high quality research across the UK. But the biggest challenge has been in providing the best data and analytical services for the new UKCRC Tissue Directory.

The directory of biobanks aims to become the focal point for all biobanking activity in the UK and specialists from the University’s Advanced Data Analysis Centre and Information Services department in collaboration with the University College London have spent the last 12 months working on the project funded by the UK Clinical Research Collaboration.

Dr Philip Quinlan, from the Advanced Data Analysis Centre and Acting Director of the UKCRC Tissue Directory and Coordination Centre, said: “This is truly a landmark occasion in the UK. For the first time we have a coordination effort across all disease types and research areas with the direct aim of facilitating world leading research and investment in the UK.”

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There are already directories for single diseases. But a directory for any number of human tissue samples has never been done before in the UK. The work is the realisation of a vision document set out by the UK Clinical Research Collaboration several years ago. This document detailed what should happen in order to facilitate world-leading research by making human samples more visible for researchers.

Phase one — going live

With the help of project managers, systems architects, user experience experts, website developers and support staff from the University the UKCRC Tissue Directory has just gone live for biobanks to register their collections.

Dr Quinlan said “The first phase is the launch of the Directory to allow researchers and organisations who are custodians of samples to register their collections. The team in Nottingham is busy working on the next phases, to include the search capabilities for researchers.”

Sue Platt, Director, Global IT Change Delivery at The University of Nottingham, said: “Information Services are proud to have collaborated with the Advanced Data Analysis Centre to produce this innovative solution. It has been a great opportunity to work with our academic colleagues in an agile and responsive way and we are looking forward to continuing our partnership and delivering further value to researchers.

Vision for funded collections of human tissue and biosamples

The original announcement about a vision for funded collections of human tissue and biosamples was announced by the Medical Research Council in April 2014. Even then they knew the challenges it posed. In order to achieve this vision, they identified a clear need for systems to make collections discoverable, increased harmonisation of collection and storage of samples across academia, the NHS and industry, the importance of public engagement around tissue donation for research and the need to make the UK more attractive for researchers.

Funding of £900,000 has been provided by the British Heart Foundation; Cancer Research UK; Chief Scientist Office (Scotland); Medical Research Council UK; National Institute for Health Research/Department of Health; Health and Social Care Research & Development Division, Public Health Agency, Northern Ireland; National Institute for Social Care and Health Research (NISCHR)/ Welsh Government; Wellcome Trust. 

Call for more support

Professor Jon Garibaldi, Nottingham’s Principal Investigator and Head of the School of Computer Science, said: “We knew this was a challenging project. We are really happy with the progress we’ve made to deliver Phase one, and we now are now looking for support from the wider biobanking community to enable us to successfully progress to deliver the remaining goals of this exciting initiative.

The staff at the UKCRC Tissue Directory and Coordination Centre are planning a tour of biobanks across the UK in order to promote this new resource. Events will be held during February and March at the Universities of Nottingham, University College London, Cardiff and Bristol as well as in Edinburgh with the NHS Research Scotland network of Biorepositories — with more planned throughout the year.

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with a “distinct” approach to internationalisation, which rests on those full-scale campuses in China and Malaysia, as well as a large presence in its home city.’ (Times Good University Guide 2016). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers and the winner of ‘Outstanding Support for Early Career Researchers’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2015. It is ranked in the world’s top 75 by the QS World University Rankings 2015/16, and 8th in the UK by research power according to the Research Excellence Framework 2014. It has been voted the world’s greenest campus for three years running, according to Greenmetrics Ranking of World Universities.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Philip Quinlan, in the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science at The University of Nottingham,, on +44 (0) 115 951 6359
Lindsay Brooke

Lindsay Brooke - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5751 Location: University Park

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