Hospital del Mar Research Institute Hospital del Mar Research Institute


15/06/2020 - Covid-19

MARBiobanc makes more than 2000 samples from patients with COVID-19 available for research

It was one of the first biobanks in Spain to start collecting samples thanks to its innovative model, which is part of the Catalan Reference Laboratory node

The MARBiobanc of the PSMAR has so far collected more than 2000 samples from 623 COVID-19 patients. In addition, it has follow-up samples -obtained at different times of the clinical evolution of the disease- from 40% of the cases. These samples are difficult to obtain and provide new opportunities for research projects linked to patient evolution (prognosis, biomarkers of evolution, sequelae, etc.). It should be noted that all the samples were collected in strict compliance with the ethical and legal standards set out in the Biomedical Research Act.

MARBiobanc pioneered the systematic collection of COVID-19 samples, starting on April 1, thanks to its close coordination with the clinical services at Hospital del Mar and its collaboration with the Catalan Reference Laboratory, which is a node integrated into MARBiobanc.


"We would like to thank the commitment to MARBiobanc shown by all the professionals who have made it possible to set up the collection circuit in such a short time. A huge effort has also been made to adapt the experimental protocols and our facilities and equipment to a higher level of biosafety. This collection, which is available to the entire scientific community, is of enormous value for research projects on COVID-19 and for establishing collaborations that will allow us to discover different aspects related to the disease, its prevention and treatment", explains Montserrat Torá, director of MARBiobanc.

The samples come from patients definitively diagnosed with COVID-19 or with a clinical picture compatible with this virus, at different stages of severity and evolution of the disease, from mildly to severely ill patients, those admitted to Intensive Care Units, and others who have died. The samples are predominantly serum, nasopharyngeal exudates, blood or tissues, although there are others. It should be noted that some of the samples collected were provided for the mass PCR tests which, once validated, served to increase the number of diagnostic tests in the most aggressive phase of the pandemic.

MARBiobanc is also one of the 39 institutions comprising the National Network of Biobanks of the Carlos III Health Institute. Currently, the National Biobank Network has 62,000 COVID-19 samples from 21,000 patients available for investigative purposes, to be made available to research projects that need them to advance knowledge of this new pathology.  If any researcher is interested in these samples, the request can be managed through MARBiobanc.

The National Biobank Network initiative allows projects on the new SARS-CoV-2 virus to have access to a common national catalogue of samples from patients who have suffered from COVID-19. In addition, it has managed to register all these human biological samples in only 5 weeks, in this case, starting the collection on April 14.

In addition to the 39 institutions that form part of this network, collaborating biobanks have joined the initiative in order to incorporate the maximum possible number of excess healthcare samples with sufficiently homogeneous quality to be used in research.

"All this has been made possible thanks to the huge commitment and participation of the healthcare services and laboratories of the Spanish National Health System hospitals that have supported this initiative, guaranteeing the ethical-legal protection provided by the biobanks and the universal availability of all these samples for research projects funded and approved by a Research Ethics Committee", stresses Cristina Villena, coordinator of the National Biobank Network. "The role of biobanks is key in research into COVID-19" she concludes.

A greater level of security

Initially, MARBiobanc, like all biobanks, had to adapt its facilities and equipment to be able to work with these types of samples that require a higher level of biosafety. The collaboration between the National Biobank Network and the Spanish Biosafety Association (AEBioS) to develop general recommendations on how to handle and conserve these samples has had a major impact on biobanks as well as other areas, including research laboratories, even internationally and in other Spanish-speaking countries.

The MARBiobanc has also been involved in the IRISCAT alliance of the Directorate General for Research and Innovation of the Ministry of Health (Generalitat de Catalunya) to establish recommendations for handling these samples in research laboratories.


About MARBiobanc

MARBiobank is the Parc de Salut Mar biobank. It is a public, non-profit institute that houses several collections of biological samples designed for biomedical research purposes and organised as a technical unit with quality, order and destination criteria. It forms part of the National Biobank Network

Further information:

About the National Biobank Network

The Spanish National Biobank Network (Red Nacional de Biobancos; RNBB) is an initiative of the Carlos III Health Institute that provides added value to all Spanish biobanks, with the aim of providing high-level scientific, technical, and technological support to R&D&I projects in health sciences and technologies, as well as promoting innovation in health technologies, through the supply of human biological samples and associated data of excellent quality.

The RNBB is made up of 39 institutions from all over Spain, bringing together hospital biobanks, regional networks, networked biobanks, biobanks from the main Health Research Institutes and biobanks from research centres and universities throughout the country. It is currently coordinated from the Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Enfermedades Respiratorias (CIBERES) based at the Institut de Recerca Sanitària Illes Balears (IdISBa).

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