Dr. Elizabeth Karlson with a Biobank participant

Dr. Elizabeth Karlson with a Biobank participant

At Partners, we’re committed to investing in cutting-edge research while also striving to improve efficiencies. The Partners HealthCare Biobank, which was featured in The Boston Globe, is one innovative program that does both. A joint project between Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s Hospitals, the Partners Biobank stores patient blood samples alongside medical history, family history and data about lifestyle and environmental factors that are collected from participants.

“The most innovative aspect of this project is the ability to study biomarkers, genetic variants and environmental factors to predict longitudinal outcomes in a large, diverse population in a way that will lead to understanding how to use this data for personalized medicine,” says Dr. Elizabeth Karlson, co-investigator of the project at BWH.

While many academic medical centers collect DNA samples, plasma, or serum, few include surveys of family history, lifestyle and behavioral factors alongside those samples. What sets the Partners Biobank apart is the decision to link both the survey and sample data to the health information included in patients’ electronic medical records.

Unlike traditional research studies, participants aren’t volunteering to contribute to a specific investigation; instead, their samples could be used to inform a wide variety of research. But for some participants, the ability to contribute to something bigger is part of the appeal. “You’re doing something that’s pretty neat, trying to develop a better world and a better life for our children,” Biobank participant and advisory committee member Tom Fryer told The Globe.

With more than 17,000 participants to date, the study aims to recruit 75,000-100,000 participants in the next four years. “We aim to form a true partnership with our patients,” says co-investigator Dr. Susan Slaugenhaupt of MGH. “They aren't simply research subjects—we hope to keep them engaged in the future and make them feel like they are part of something special.”

Learn more about the innovative research underway at Partners’ hospitals.

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