Biobanks Are On The Cusp Of Translating Big Data Into New Medicine

The rise of biobanks worldwide promised lots of cheap and plentiful human DNA for scientists to study.


In the spring of 2020, as COVID-19 ricocheted around the world, geneticists everywhere joined forces to try to answer a shattering question: Why did some people infected with the coronavirus become severely ill and die while most did not? Suspecting the answer might be genetic, these scientists tapped into a global network of repositories called biobanks—storehouses of DNA that for years had been collecting bio-samples (mostly blood) from millions of people—to help researchers better understand how genes tucked inside us influence disease.

The discoveries demonstrate the potential power of biobanks to unravel genetic influences not only for COVID-19 but for a range of diseases.

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