Biobank Borealis of Northern Finland – from bench to bedside

What are biobanks?

A biobank is a collection of human samples (e.g. tissue, blood, cells, extracted DNA) that is linked to the sample donor’s health data (with the informed consent of the donors). Samples for clinical studies and diagnostic purposes have been collected throughout the history of medicine, but in the new biobank concept, defined by the Biobank Act, the collected samples can be used for a variety of future research needs, not just for a defined specific research purpose as previously. Furthermore, the new research results are obliged to be returned to the biobank that further enriches its data set.

Biobanks are key resources for unravelling the molecular basis of disease subtypes, identification of new therapeutic targets and biomarkers – all of which lead to personalized healthcare and more effective treatment strategies via translational medical research. Especially the digitalization of biological samples and generation of big data will create great opportunities to develop new forms of treatment, targeted drugs and health services.


Biobank Borealis of Northern Finland

Northern Ostrobothnia Hospital District, the University of Oulu, NordLab and the hospital/healthcare districts of Lapland, Länsi-Pohja, Central Ostrobothnia and Kainuu have established a biobank in Northern Finland. The Borealis Biobank closely collaborates with the Medical Research Center Oulu. The Finnish biobank collaborate via the national (Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure) network.


What types of samples the Borealis biobank includes?

  • The sample archive transferred from Pathology department of the Oulu University Hospital includes 1 800 000 pathology tissue and cell samples beginning from 1978. In addition, the pathology arcives of four central hospital starting from early 90s are included in the Biobank Borealis collections.
  • A rapidly growing collection of blood samples (serum, plasma, DNA) collected from people who have signed a prospective consent to participate in Biobank Borealis.
  • The Finnish Maternity Cohort (FMC) collection contains over 2 million serum samples, collected from mothers living in Finland during their preganancies. The FMC material was transferred to Biobank Borealis in fall 2017. Based on the FMC sample material, hundreds of scientific articles and doctoral dissertations have been published since 1985.
  • Researchers have the opportunity to collect sample materials for their projects in collaboration with the biobank, e.g. focusing on certain diseases
  • A preliminary feasibility mapping or study of the research materials can be conducted cost-effectively in the early stages of the research project.


How to obtain samples, services and data from Biobank Borealis?

The biobank can assign samples and related data only for high-quality health sciences research and development. A scientific committee will evaluate all sample and data requests.

  • Contact Biobank Borealis with a preliminary research plan to find out whether biobank Borealis has the material that could be used in your research. Contact via email ( ) or call us (+358 40 5049025).
  • If the sample collections of biobank Borealis contain the materials you need, please send the Biobank Request Form (can be found in Pohjois-Suomen biopankki Borealis) to or by mail directly to the Biobank. 
  • Biobank's Scientific Committee will evaluate the requests in its next meeting, which take place once a month. Specifically, the Scientific Committee evaluates the scientific level, significance and ethicality of the research project. The amount of requested material will be assessed in relation to the number of available samples and defines the criteria for selecting the samples for the research project. Additional inquiries may be submitted to the researcher. Based on the decision of the scientific committee, the manager of the biobank decides on the transfer of the material.
  • Following a positive decision, a material transfer agreement with the researcher's organization will be signed, and then the data can be transferred.
  • At the end of the study, the analyzed results related to the samples and / or the raw data will be returned to the biobank as stated in the Material transfer agreement. The results of the study must also be published, e.g. in a scientific peer-reviewed journal.


Biobank Services for Researchers

  • Opportunity to obtain large sets of high-quality sample materials linked to various clinical data, collected and stored in controlled conditions.
  • Collection of biobank consents, samples and related data in collaboration with researchers
  • provision of infrastructure and tools related to the storage, management and search of samples and data
  • Opportunities for R&D collaboration in data mining and in the utilization of analysis tools. The Oulu region is a particularly attractive place for multidisciplinary research cooperation between medicine, life sciences and ICT.
  • Digitalization of tissue samples.
  • Hardware and related services in Whole Slide Imaging/Digital Pathology
  • Planning and production of tissue microarray (TMA) blocks
  • Processing and analysis of samples
  • Histological processing of tissue samples
  • Isolated DNA

The fees for the laboratory services are negotiated on a case-by-case basis.


More information can be found from
OuluHealth ja Pohjois-Suomen biopankki Borealis


Last updated: 18.5.2018