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 Eero Punkka Dr. Director of the Helsinki Biobank

The Helsinki Biobank, founded by the Helsinki University Hospital (HUS) and Helsinki University, is the largest hospital biobank in Finland. It serves an area which comprises 40% of the Finnish population.

When using real-world data in research, patient consent is very important. Without consent you can conduct register studies, via the IT department of HUS or, when using multiple registers, via Findata. Electronic medical records from the Helsinki Biobank work with patient consent, which is a wide consent. Through a cooperative called FinBB (Finnish Biobanking Cooperative), you can also access a common portal with several biobanks in Finland, called Fingenious . The samples from the biobank can be combined with rich, longitudinal real-world clinical data. Additionally, patients from whom the samples were taken can be recontacted.

The Helsinki Biobank serves as an intermediary between researchers and the clinical world. Information and samples from the biobank are provided to researchers, while patients and healthcare workers can access the results of the conducted research. Through the Finnish Biobanking Law, patients have the right to know what data have been collected from them.

The Helsinki Biobank has over 1 million patient tissue samples and around 120,000 blood samples. Furthermore, it has a collection of plasma samples, DNA, serum, liquor, saliva, stool and fresh frozen tissue. These samples are taken through accredited HUS diagnostic sampling procedures and with biobank patient consent as part of the hospital routine. If needed, the samples can be further processed for research purposes by the biobank. Moreover, the biobank can manage data retrieval and curation related to the samples and offer some data-analytic services for researchers. 

HUS has developed a datalake information architecture, where data have been drawn from different hospital systems and merged into a single datalake for secondary use. The datalake is a big data reservoir with over 3.5 million patients, 80 million EMR notes, 21 million radiology images and 780 million laboratory tests, going back to as early as the 1980s, all in a structured, digital format. It runs on a cloud platform, Azure, by Microsoft. The records in the datalake can be used for research, reporting purposes and can be integrated for other use.

Eero Punkka believes that the work of the Helsinki Biobank is essential because it helps us to understand diseases better. The biobank provides data that cover all the different areas needed for biomedical studies. It is the way to further develop the personalised medicine concept.