Published: 11-05-2023 12:59 | Updated: 26-06-2023 17:11

New procedure gives researchers access to 1.5 million COVID-19 samples stored at KI

COVID-19 sample collection
COVID-19 sample collection Photo: Evelina Björninen

Biobank Sweden has teamed up with the Swedish regions and the National Pandemic Centre (NPC) at Karolinska Institutet to produce a new process that gives researchers access to 1.5 million COVID-19 samples. The samples are stored at the NPC and researchers applying to use them must first seek ethical approval.

Jessica Alm
Jessica Alm Photo: Andreas Andersson

“This sample collection offers a unique opportunity for retrospective analyses of disease transmission and spread and other related issues, which there was neither the possibility nor the resources to do during the most intensive phases of the pandemic,” says Jessica Alm, Head of Unit at the NPC.

A new application form has been created specifically for the NPC’s COVID-19 sample collection, and Biobank Sweden has appointed two Regional Biobank Centres (RBCs) to coordinate the joint national application process: RBC South and RBC Central Sweden. This will ease the processing of incoming applications in terms of their coordination and regulatory review in compliance with the Swedish Biobank Act. An external expert review board made up of representatives of the Society for Clinical Microbiology, the Swedish Public Health Agency and the Swedish Association of Infectious Disease Physicians has been appointed to oversee the scientific evaluation of applications. However, each region still retains legal responsibility for its own samples and for every application has the final decision regarding access to and release of samples from the NPC collection.

Lars Engstrand Photo: Johannes Frandsén

The NPC sample collection will be published digitally in association with SciLifeLab via the Swedish COVID-19 and Pandemic Preparedness Portal. This will give researchers an overview of the sample collection along with information on the process and procedures for accessing samples. The data portal has been set up to encourage and promote COVID-19 research, also beyond the NPC collection.

“We hope that this unique sample collection will be used by researchers within the field to generate not only new knowledge on COVID-19, but also useful insights ahead of future pandemics,” says Professor Lars Engstrand, consultant and NPC director. “It will make us better prepared, and hopefully able to reduce the disease burden and cost to society.”