12 August 2020
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Amsterdam UMC was breaking new ground in response to COVID-19

As soon as the first COVID-19 patients were hospitalized at Amsterdam UMC, Prof. Diederik van de Beek and colleagues initiated a biobank to collect patient samples. We asked the head of the Amsterdam UMC Biobank, Dr. Jörg Hamann, how this unique initiative came about.

The Amsterdam UMC COVID-19 Biobank finds itself at the forefront internationally and received national press coverage. Hamann: ‘The biobank was initiated as an immediate response to the emerging of the COVID-19 pandemic by neurologist van de Beek. It then took rapid concerted and collective action of colleagues from various departments within our hospitals at both sides of the Amstel, including infectious diseases, intensive care, pulmonology, medical microbiology, clinical chemistry and of course our biobank facility to get started.’

The situation at that time was hectic. Biological samples were collected as part of patient care, which had everyone’s priority. In these circumstances it was just not possible to maintain our regular consent procedure in which we inform patients beforehand. That’s why we chose for a deferred consent procedure. Patients received information and gave oral permission in the hospital if possible, but they all obtained a letter later at home informing them about the potential use of their material for research purposes and providing the option to opt-out. Our Ethics Committees acted quickly within one week to give permission.

Detailed analyses of samples from 200 patients

In March and April, very large amounts of samples came in every day. Fortunately, PhD students and technicians who could not enter their labs because of Corona came to the hospital in the evenings and weekends to help the clinical chemistry labs with processing the materials.

Hamann: ‘We decided that we want to have detailed analysis of blood and DNA for 200 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, half of which from the regular Corona departments and half from intensive care. Meanwhile, we sent the DNA samples for GWAS to the Human Genomics facility at ErasmusMC, which offers cost-free genotyping of COVID-19 patients. WGS of patient DNAs occurs in collaboration with researches at INSERM in France, and a comprehensive analysis of plasma proteins will start soon in our laboratories.’

Unique collection available for research

The biobank now stores more than 44.000 samples of more than 815 patients. More than 30 applications for materials have been received from researchers within Amsterdam UMC and from Sanquin.. Hamann: ‘On a collaborative basis we also welcome requests from researchers outside Amsterdam UMC. Our efforts are leading to results. Several manuscripts are under review at top journals right now. Feel free to contact us.’

Details about the Amsterdam UMC COVID-19 biobank can be found in BBMRI.nl Catalogue. In the future, data will also be made available through the observational COVID-19 metadata portal Health-RI is developing.