Oxford Biobank replaces legacy database with OpenSpecimen

The Oxford Biobank is a population-based biorepository. They currently hold over 400,000  biological samples collected across 20+ studies. Their collection includes biospecimens and data from more than 8,000 healthy 30-50 years old Oxfordshire residents. All participants undergo a detailed examination at a screening visit, donate DNA and give informed consent to be re-approached. Therefore, the Oxford BioBank is a valuable resource for medical researchers working to translate early discoveries into new solutions for patients. 

The Oxford Biobank investigations focus on research into common diseases like diabetes,  obesity and cardiovascular disease. 

In 2015 a new cohort of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) was introduced as part of the Oxford  BioBank. Recruitment of men and women with T2DM aged 25-75 years will enable studies on physiological consequences of genetic mechanisms of the disease to understand better why some people are more resilient than others in developing adult chronic diseases. 

Replacing Obsolete Software 

Oxford Biobank faced a common problem: their data management system was becoming out of date. It was incompatible with many modern internet browsers. The biobank was unable to meet the large upgrade costs needed to get its software running properly. As a government-funded organisation, they have limited funds, most of which are used on staff, expensive laboratory consumables and reagents. Therefore, it became critical for Oxford BioBank to find a new system that was within their limited budget.  

They came to know about OpenSpecimen from the University of Leicester’s NIHR Cardiovascular Biomedical Research Unit, who were already using OpenSpecimen for nearly 10 years. Kindly enough, Leicester demonstrated their usage of OpenSpecimen to the Oxford Biobank team. This

It became one of the options that the Oxford Biobank team investigated further. 

Intuitive and Easy to Use 

End users at Oxford BioBank found OpenSpecimen’s user interface very intuitive to use. Staff reported that it was extremely easy to reformat their legacy data from the current system and upload it to OpenSpecimen.

Oxford Biobank’s nurses have found the system much easier to use than their previous software.

“It was important to biobank staff to have a template option for sample entry. Their previous system had a very quick sample data entry method using templates, which they wanted to replicate. In a few mouse clicks, staff could create many samples and print labels. Users now report that they prefer OpenSpecimen over the old clunkier system.” said John Miller, IT  Biobank Manager, Oxford BioBank. 

The Value of Open Source 

“Open source solutions often have a thriving community around them and OpenSpecimen looks to be headed that way. The forum has users and developers all helping and supporting each other. This also gives OpenSpecimen Enterprise clear aims from the diverse user feedback,”  said John Miller, IT Biobank Manager, Oxford BioBank.  

“OpenSpecimen is a cost-effective solution for us. We were previously locked into proprietary software. With extremely high upgrade costs, which we were not able to meet. This is no longer the case with the increasing use of open-source software solutions,” John added.



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