The journey to establishing an IT-infrastructure within the German Biobank Alliance

Schüttler C, Prokosch HU, Hummel M, Lablans M, Kroll B, Engels C (2021)

Publication Type: Journal article

Publication year: 2021


Book Volume: 16

Article Number: e0257632

Journal Issue: 9 September

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0257632


Background: Biobanks ensure the long-term storage and accessibility of biospecimens and corresponding data sets. Thus, they form the foundation for many research projects which may contribute to improving medical care. With the establishment of the German Biobank Node and Alliance, expertise in biobanking is bundled and strengthened. An important component within this research infrastructure is the set-up of an information technology (IT) network for allowing feasibility requests across individual biobanks. Objective: We aim to describe relevant aspects that have shaped the journey to interconnect biobanks, to enhance their visibility within the research-community, to harmonize data, and to enable feasibility searches to support access to available data and biosamples. Methods: To achieve this task, we resorted to a wide variety of methods: we ran a requirement analysis, decided on the mode of operation for the federated team of IT-developers and on the development approach itself, took related national and international initiatives into account, and concluded with evaluations of the developed software artefacts and the operation of the entire chain of applications. Results: We drew an IT framework including all heterogeneous data aspects derived from our requirement analysis and developed a comprehensive IT infrastructure. The successful implementation benefited from a smooth interaction of a federated IT team distributed across all participating sites that was even able to manage a major technology change mid-project. Authentication and project management services from associated partners could be integrated and the graphic user interface for an intuitive search tool for biospecimens was designed iteratively. The developed code is open source to ensure sustainability and the local implementation is concluded and functioning. The evaluation of the components was positive. Conclusions: The entire project had given ample opportunity for challenges, predictable and unpredictable-from the mode of operation to changing some of the initial ideas. We learned our lessons concerning personnel, budget planning and technical as well as manual monitoring as well as some requirements arising only during the process of the project. Nevertheless, we can here report a success story of a network infrastructure, highly agile and much easier in local installation than initially anticipated.

Authors with CRIS profile

Involved external institutions

How to cite


Schüttler, C., Prokosch, H.-U., Hummel, M., Lablans, M., Kroll, B., & Engels, C. (2021). The journey to establishing an IT-infrastructure within the German Biobank Alliance. PLoS ONE, 16(9 September).


Schüttler, Christina, et al. "The journey to establishing an IT-infrastructure within the German Biobank Alliance." PLoS ONE 16.9 September (2021).

BibTeX: Download