Duration 11/2016-10/2018


Biobanking and BioMolecular resources Research Infrastructure Austria

Project collaborators: Ulrike Felt, Melanie Goisauf, Susanne Öchsner

BMWFW - Bundesministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Wirtschaft

Project description

Biobanks are organized collections of biological samples and related medical, health, lifestyle, and imaging data stored for research activities. The purpose of biobanks is to provide researchers access to samples and data in order to support medical research and the develop new diagnostics, biomarkers and pharmaceutical treatments. BBMRI.at aims to establish a state-of-the-art biobanking infrastructure in Austria by increasing cooperation and harmonization between biobanks, in order to facilitate access to and fostering the use of biological samples and data for academic and industrial research.
For many decades, biobanks were not considered as a topic of public concern. The increasing up-linking of (European) biobanks has led to intensified debates on issues such as informed consent, data protection or benefit sharing. Hence, public engagement has intensified in the field of biobanking and has become important in almost any recommendation for biobank governance. Previous research has pointed to the importance of considering public attitudes towards biobanks at early stages of the establishment process. Respective public engagement methods intend to provide insights into the attitudes and concerns of publics, which inform present and future policy discourses on ethical, legal and societal implications (ELSI) on both national and European levels.
BBMRI.at (Biobanking and BioMolecular resources Research Infrastructure) is funded by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research & Economy (GZ 10.470/0016-II/3/2013). It is the Austrian national node of the European network for biobanks, BBMRI -ERIC (BBMRI European Research Infrastructures Consortium). This network aims to increase the cooperation between biobanks among the project member states. The national network of BBMRI.at consists of the Medical Universities and biobanks of Graz, Vienna, Innsbruck, Salzburg, the University of Veterinary with their biobank, as well as the Alpen-Adria University Klagenfurt, and the University of Vienna.
The Department of Science and Technology Studies at the University of Vienna is concerned with the ethical, legal and social issues within BBMRI.at and its compliance with (inter)national requirements.

Research approach

Storing and connecting medical samples and data raises legal and ethical questions that are increasingly linked to the matter of public engagement. What are citizens' opinions on biobanks? What is expected regarding data protection and distribution of possible outcomes, profits and risks? What kinds of impact can this knowledge have on biobanks?
These questions are addressed in discussion meetings, so-called Citizen-Expert-Panels. The purpose of these panels is not only to make aims and meanings of biobanking transparent, but also to foster public engagement in order to provide a forum for discussion and room for exchange between Austrian publics and patients with experts in the field of biobanking.


Ulrike Felt or Melanie Goisauf
eMail: ulrike.felt@univie.ac.at or melanie.goisauf@univie.ac.at
Tel: +43 1 4277-49611 or -49619