Beyond borders

Located at the heart of Europe, IBBL provides a full range of services and a central biobanking infrastructure for research projects and clinical trials. With 68 active projects, 7 new contracts and 1 additional grant awarded by the European Commission, the year 2016 proved fruitful for IBBL. Its reputation as a valued and trusted partner was most particularly recognised by a partnership sealed with EORTC, a leading cancer research organisation regrouping over 4,600 collaborators in Europe.

First cross-border tumourbank

EORTC partners with IBBL

Launch of a EU consortium

Luxembourg is part of EATRIS

Helping researchers and patients

At the level of the Greater Region, IBBL triggered the first France-Luxembourg collection of cancer tissues in collaboration with the Clinique Ambroise Paré and a private pathology laboratory from Thionville. The objective was twofold: to set up a diagnostic biobank collection on the recommendation of the French National Cancer Institute on the one hand; and to enrich IBBL’s research biobank collection on the other hand. IBBL has already ensured that the 1,690 samples voluntarily donated by cancer patients are optimally preserved for both research and diagnostic purposes. While the project is a win-win situation for the partners involved, it also clearly benefits patients and researchers alike. Firstly, the tumour tissue left over after a diagnosis may no longer be needed for medical care but has tremendous value for cancer researchers. Secondly, this same tissue holds potential value for the cancer patient in case additional diagnostic tests need to be performed down the line. The Tumorothèque Thionville is a prime precedent for the national tumourbank that IBBL is planning to establish together with all Luxembourgish hospitals and the Laboratoire National de Santé (LNS) within the framework of the National Cancer Plan.

« Making these valuable materials available to the scientific community could help develop better prevention measures, better diagnostic tests and better therapies. »

Laurent Antunes
IBBL’s Chief Clinical Department/Pathologist

Shaping the future of cancer therapy

Another cross-border success is EORTC’s decision to select IBBL as the preferred biobanking infrastructure for its precision medicine clinical research. EORTC stands for the European Organisation for the Research and Treatment of Cancer. It is a longstanding partner with whom IBBL has progressively built trust. This new collaboration is multifaceted: it includes the handling and storing of human biological material, and potentially training programmes for pathologists, support in the discovery and validation of diagnostic, prognostic or predictive biomarkers in cancer, as well as initiatives in biospecimen research. The later is one of the reasons why the biobank has joined the organisation. IBBL is indeed one of the few biobanks worldwide that carry out research on biospecimen science with the objective to optimise the collection, processing, analysis and storage of biological samples. This expertise makes IBBL a valued partner and research support infrastructure in Europe.

« Our biospecimen research programme is one of the most important factors in our commitment to continuously improve the quality of our samples and services. »

Fay Betsou
IBBL’s Chief Scientific Officer

Advancing personalised medicine

Recognising the potential of collaborations, IBBL has been pursuing the strategy to partner in cross-border research projects and clinical trials, but also in European consortia. Over the years, the biobank has successfully contributed both its biobanking services and biospecimen research expertise to several partnerships, such as the CANCER-ID consortium to name but a few. In 2016, the European Union selected the support and coordination action SPIDIA for Personalised Medicine (SPIDIA4P) for funding under its Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, and IBBL honourably joined the ranks of 19 European scientists and industry stakeholders. Within this public-private partnership, IBBL committed to share its expertise in biospecimen research to ultimately reinforce the era of personalised medicine in patient care.

Looking for new avenues

To the end of securing more partners of this type, IBBL pushed strongly for Luxembourg to join EATRIS, the European infrastructure for translational medicine. This has happened, and IBBL is now the national coordinating institution for EATRIS in Luxembourg.

« As EATRIS’ role is to gather expertise and facilitate access to European translational research infrastructure, this membership is likely to increase our visibility, give us access to a wider market and ultimately help us grow our customer base. »

Dominic Allen
IBBL’s Chief Operating Officer and EATRIS’ Luxembourg National Director

Keep on reading our 2016 annual report: