The Key to Big Data Science

Lab sample tracking

Throughout history one of mankind’s biggest problems was not having too much information, but having too little. Today, in the age of big data, we face an overload of information that without the right tools could make research progress slow almost to a halt. Most people have heard of bioinformatics, but fewer have heard of the large biobanks and laboratory sample management software that makes big data science possible.

What are Biobanks?

Biobanks are exactly what they sound like, storage facilities for various biological samples. While many of these biobanks are new, a result of the science boom in the last few decades, 17% have been in existence for over 20 years. Many specialize in some sort of disease or age range, with 53% of biobanks listing research on a particular ailment as the most important reason for establishment. Some also store samples of all kinds. Around 29% of biobanks are available for general research.

Where does the Money Come From?

Much of the funding for biobanks comes from the federal government. Thirty-six percent of biobanks list federal funding as the primary source of income. For 57% of the rest of the biobanks, the federal government still provided some sort of assistance. The remainder of funding could be made up of fees for the service charged to the scientific investigators, or funding from specific individuals or foundations.

Do They Work?

This is a growing industry, with the number of tissue samples in US biobanks alone estimated at more than 300 million in the year 2000, and growing by 20 million a year. Even so, in a survey of more than 700 cancer researchers in the year 2011, 47% had trouble finding biobank samples of sufficient quality. This unavailability of samples is holding back progress. It is very possible that there are viable samples of good quality in these biobanks, but without a proper web enabled and accessible record keeping method they could be wasted.

How Can We Make Them Better?

Quality laboratory sample management software is the key to improving access to this information. If all samples are listed in a freezer inventory then lost or unknown samples become much less likely. Sample tracking must be a priority in translational research. Human brains are not meant to handle big data, but we can build machines and laboratory management software that can. If we improve this system, we speed research of all kinds. Cures for cancer, auto-immune diseases, and every other human illness will come a little bit closer. With the right laboratory sample management software, we can change the world.

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