Biobanks are collections of biomaterial and associated data (patient/participant characteristics, details on pre-analytical sample management, diagnoses, treatment, etc.), featuring a dynamic turnover. This implies that biobanks are no static archives of left-over materials from the diagnostic process, but vital resources which are continuously established and frequently used.
According to their scope, biobanks can be roughly classified as population based or hospital based. Population based biobanks, collecting samples and data of initially healthy individuals and observing their health status over long times, constitute a resource for epidemiologic research. In contrast, hospital based biobanks usually harbor disease-oriented collections or support clinical researchers with sample logistics in the framework of clinical trials (see article in German language: http://www.medmedia.at/spectrum-onkologie/biobanking-auf-europaischer-ebene/).
Currently, approximately 200 distinct biobanks operate in European countries, the largest part of them in the framework of academic or public institutions (ftp.jrc.es/EURdoc/JRC57831.pdf). The common characteristic of all academic biobanks is that samples and data are collected, processed and used for research purpose. At the MedUni Wien Biobank, each of these projects requires approval of an ethical review board in order to ensure compliance with applicable regulations.
The rise of biobanks resulted from the necessity to address the high amount of irreproducible research results, which occur in a considerable part due to the poor quality of used materials (https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1002165). As a result, more and more research institutes established centralized sample handling and storage facilities which were able to provide high quality biospecimen which were processed according to standardized, evidence-based procedures.