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International Pathology Day

Join the Conversation about the Future of Historic Biorepository

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has developed recommendations on the future use of the specimens that were once housed in the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP).

A veritable treasure trove of the world’s largest collection of human pathology specimens, AFIP closed in 2010 as part of the federal base realignment and closure, and its biorepository was absorbed into the newly established Joint Pathology Center. 

“Many of ASCP’s members worked with AFIP and its repository in various capacities. They understand its historical role and the need for the repository to have a vital role in the future.”
—Jeff Jacobs, ASCP Senior Vice President of Science, Technology, and Policy

“AFIP was an extraordinary repository of historic specimens, including biospecimens used to sequence the genome of the 1918 influenza virus that killed over 40 million people worldwide,” said Jeff Jacobs, ASCP Senior Vice President of Science, Technology, and Policy. “Many of ASCP’s members worked with AFIP and its repository in various capacities. They understand its historical role and the need for the repository to have a vital role in the future.”

At the request of the Department of Defense (DOD), the IOM developed a three-pronged set of recommendations governing how the specimens may be used in the future for consultation, education, and research. These include: general observations based on its overall evaluation of the Joint Pathology Center’s future challenges; a response to DOD questions regarding retention and maintenance of biospecimens; and recommendations for the future use of the biospecimens and associated data and medical records in clinical care, education, and research.

Among its recommendations, the IOM advises the Joint Pathology Center, as part of its plan to improve the use of repository materials in research, to evaluate the strengths and limitations of the collection, to consider how to enhance the repository’s value, and to formulate its retention policy and dissemination management. The Joint Pathology Center should also engage the professional community in discussion concerning future use of the repository to better understand the potential demand for collection materials and how to facilitate their use.

“This is an important recommendation and it is hoped that the Joint Pathology Center takes this recommendation to heart by reaching out to ASCP and the pathology community as a whole,” Mr. Jacobs said.

The IOM report also notes that several existing and emerging technologies in protein and gene-expression profiling and advances in DNA, elemental, and chemical studies hold the potential for making the Joint Pathology Center repository materials more useful either by permitting specimens previously considered unusable to be analyzed or by allowing more information to be extracted from specimens. It advises the Joint Pathology Center to adopt a set of best practices for the collection, processing, and storage of all incoming specimens.  

The Central Collection of the repository contains rare and unique materials that are a resource for the Joint Pathology Center and the global scientific community. However, the Joint Pathology Center must determine what constitutes rare and unique material. The IOM report notes that even relatively common diseases have rare subtypes, for example. Moreover, particular collections of specimens may be “unique” in the aggregate; however, until a particular set of desired material characteristics is defined, it may not be possible to determine whether or not other similar collections are available elsewhere, the report notes. 

Another consideration is that it is difficult to predict what may prove to be valuable at some future time or under particular circumstances. The IOM has recommended that the Joint Pathology Center establish criteria, in close consultation with pathology subspecialty experts in and outside the organization, before deciding whether to deplete a specimen to exhaustion.

For more information, click here.  


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