Thanks to increases in public and political support, improving technology and the commitment of the scientific community, biobanks have never been so common or effective. These facilities, which are used to collect and store various biological samples, are now an integral component of the field of translational medicine, allowing researchers to study various conditions with the hope of finding new treatments. This mission is often assisted by laboratory management software, which is used to keep track of a biobank’s freezer inventory. However, there are few biobanking software programs to track the data collected from this freezer inventory, leaving researchers wondering what to do with the wealth of information on their hands.
This problem is most likely to effect genomic research projects, which typically work with millions of genes from different human genomes. As genomic research has grown more popular, this problem has only become worse: the ability to analyze and store high numbers of data is only increasing due to improvements in biorepository management and industry software, but handling the data that results from these improvements is another story altogether. Since the 1990s, most researchers have relied on programs like BLAST, which can be used to search through databases of reference genomes for the closest matches. However, BLAST was written for relatively small databases and requires the user to align the match themselves, making it an inefficient tool for modern research.
However, this may be changing: some companies are now designing software and online platforms to handle the remarkable bottlenecks of data in genomic research. One example, called One Codex, was created by a computational geneticist and a general data management. Their product, like BLAST and other software, searches for a match to a DNA sequence in a database of genomes. However, One Codex is faster, and also compares values of its results instead of simply finding a match. This gives the program the ability to identify specific strands of viruses with thousands of different versions. As a result, the product has already won $200,000 in prize money from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for its ability to rapidly identify the dangerous Shiga toxin in samples of E. coli. With these demonstrated benefits, there could soon be new programs, devices and other innovations to unlock the full potential of a biobank’s freezer inventory.