UCL-RFH Biobank Facility


The physical repository was established in Nov 2009 and is located within the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust, London UK. The UCL-RFH Biobank is used to bank all types of frozen samples. In particular, samples considered 'relevant material', such as tissues and cells, which are licensed by the Human Tissue Authority (HTA), can be stored long term. Existing holdings of tissues and cells where appropriate can be transferred to the BioBank at the Royal Free Campus.

The physical repository has a planned capacity of 1 million samples. Samples can be stored at -80 or in vapour phase Liquid nitrogen and will be stored in either 1ml or 2ml cryotubes. 

The Biobank is licenced by the HTA (substantive licence No. 11016) and is a satellite site of the clinical transplant laboratory (Paul O' Gorman Laboratory of Cellular Therapeutics) based at the Royal Free Hospital.

The Biobank currently over 30 different user groups, which have collected 20,000 aliquots for various research projects.


Advantages of using the Biobank

  1. The UCL-RFH BioBank is unique in that depositors will remain the “owner” of the tissues which they deposit (either physically or “virtually”). Other large tissue banks offer to hold tissues but also establish ownership. Thus researchers and clinicians who have gone to the trouble of obtaining clinical samples for research will not lose control of them and will be more willing to deposit samples.
  2. The paperwork required for depositing samples are undertaken by the BioBank, thus encouraging clinical researchers to undertake studies
  3. The BioBank holdings are visible on-line (without any patient-specific identifiers) thus allowing international collaborations to be established with the individual depositor.
  4. The UCL-RFH Biobank has established full contingency plans, which include 24 hour equipment monitoring/alarm. Back up storage tanks at working temperature is case of equipment failure. Dedicated liquid nitrogen supply on-site, covering two weeks usage. Connection to the hospital emergency power generator, in case of electricity loss. The UCL-RFH Biobank information systems are backed up off-site by the UCL IT department, the data is backed up daily and transferred to tape that is stored in a fire proof safe.
  5. The UCL-RFH BioBank has been awarded national ethical approval as a Research Tissue Bank which will allow it to provide its own ethical approval for research on the tissues it holds without recourse to the national ethics application system. This allows much greater flexibility in the research process and reduce the paperwork associated with performing ethically-approved research within UCL.

UCL-RFH BioBank Information Systems (URBIS)

In order to manage the complex IT systems underlying biobanking such as repository management, patient sample information and research analytical laboratory management, UCL have partnered with Genologics (GLS), a Canadian software company, whose suite of biomedical informatics products are developed to meet these complex needs. UCL have worked with GLS to develop a system which fits the requirements of the repository. In the solution, samples are tracked using a specific database (BioVault), all samples submitted are entered into a secure inter-relational database hosted by UCL. Patient-specific identifiers are removed and held on a separate database. The only linkage is a 13 character barcode which will be part of both databases. Both databases are encrypted using encryption software and are held on different servers. Biobank users can search what samples they have available in their collection via the Bioquest Module.

In addition, all holders of samples held in other locations in UCL (including fixed tissues, plasma, sera, DNA and RNA) will be invited to add their holdings to the BioBank Research Database hosted by UCL, once it is developed. Again, this will only hold information about the sample, and clinical data such as the diagnosis and the stage of disease etc.

The Research Database will be web-accessible so that researchers from throughout the World will be able to identify sample holdings and thus initiate collaborative research (BioQuest).


Costings-Royal Free BioBank

The Biobank's services are provided on a cost recovery basis. The Biobank provides a flexible approach to banking and allow the User to pick and chose their services they require to fit their requirements, this includes kit preparation, sample collection/receipt, sample processing (including fluid separation, cryopreservation, RNA and DNA extraction), quality control of samples, sample logging, samples storage and sample dispatch.

The cost of using UCL-RFH BioBank will therefore, depend on the level of service required. For example: 

Options for getting samples to and from BioBank

  • Researcher to arrange delivery -Courier
  • Researcher to arrange delivery -Post
  • Researcher to deliver sample
  • Biobank to retrieve specimen
  • Samples to be collected via CRF
  • Other, please specify

Derivatives to be Collected

  • Whole Blood
  • Serum
  • Cells
  • Tissue
  • DNA
  • Urine
  • RNA
  • Plasma

Processing required (by biobank or by researcher):

 1) Storage only, already separated: -80oC and/or -135oC
 2) Fluid Separation and storage: Plasma and/or Serum
 3) Cell pellet storage
 4) Extraction and storage: RNA and/or DNA
 5) Solid tissue cryopreservation and storage
 6) Peripheral Blood – MNC sep and storage
 7) Other

Study size

  • 50  - 500 subjects

Number of samples and frequency

  • 100 -  1500 sampling events (2 - 6 sampling events per subject)

Number of aliquots per study

  • 2800 - 18,000 aliquots

Data to be capture during the collection period

  • Clinical details
  • Clinical diagnosis
  • Processing results

If you are interested in obtaining costings for a potential study or transfer of samples to the Royal Free BioBank, please complete the attached form and return to uclrfhbiobank@ucl.ac.uk