Biobank research assistants Yun-Mi Shin, Gregory Keras, Louisa Harrison, Nicole Allen and Manuela Noriega.

The Partners HealthCare Biobank, a system-wide research program, is poised to accelerate medical research and cut the cost of health care across the Partners system.

“Our objective is to accelerate and improve the way in which research discoveries are translated into clinical care,” said Scott T. Weiss, MD, principal investigator for the Partners Biobank and scientific director of the Partners Center for Personalized Genetic Medicine. “With the increase of ‘omics’ focused research, such as genomics and proteomics, and the requirement for large cohorts of patients, the biobank is positioned to play a critical role in catalyzing translational and personalized medicine at all of our hospitals.”

The biobank stores blood samples from patients who choose to participate and links these samples to clinical data from the electronic medical record, as well as data on family history, lifestyle and environment collected via an online survey. These samples and information are made available to Partners researchers to study how genes, environment and other factors affect health and contribute to disease.

The focus of the program is in line with BWH’s former OurGenes, OurHealth, Our Community research program, which has subsequently merged with the Partners Biobank.

To date, more than 12,000 patients have joined the study, bringing the Partners Biobank closer to its goal of recruiting 75,000 participants over the next four years. To participate, patients must review and sign a consent form; provide a small blood sample; and complete a short survey about their family history, lifestyle and environment.

“Biobank staff worked closely with the Institutional Review Board to develop the consent form that asks patients to provide consent for broad-based research,” said Elizabeth Karlson, MD, co-director of the Partners Biobank and director of BWH Rheumatic Disease Epidemiology. “Unlike other studies, we are not asking patients to participate in disease-specific research. We are asking them to participate in all research for the greater good of all our patients.”

Jordan Smoller, MD, ScD, director of the Psychiatric and Neurodevelopment Genetics Unit at the MGH Center for Human Genetics Research and co-director of the Partners Biobank, said that the biobank has the potential to transform clinical care and research for generations to come.

“The biobank has the potential to become a research resource that will help keep our hospitals at the forefront of medical discovery nationally and internationally,” he said. “Ultimately, it will help us improve clinical care and provide new ways to personalize treatment so that we can find the best treatment for each patient.”

The Partners Biobank has been hosting a series of voluntary events called DNA Days to provide employees with an opportunity to participate and contribute to potential discoveries.

Learn more about the Partners Biobank.

Learn more about upcoming DNA Days.