In 2006 an international consortium coordinated by the Fraunhofer-Institute for Biomedical Engineering (IBMT) received the first project of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As part of the Collaboration for AIDS Vaccine Discovery – CAVD, the project will establish exemplarily an HIV biobank for the vaccine development against AIDS.
The project is based on many years of preparatory work. On the one hand, the work of the HIV network coordinated by the WHO-UNAIDS and on the other hand on developments of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in the field of cryotechnology. The HI-virus remains an unsolved problem. There is still no vaccine despite decades of research. This is partly due to the pronounced ability of these viruses to adapt. Their mutability has led to the spread of numerous virus variants worldwide and to their proliferation in cells of the immune system of infected persons. An essential tool for the research and vaccine development is, therefore, virus banks. These virus collections are becoming more valuable and extensive. They are currently decentrally distributed and technically insufficiently standardized. The attempt of the international consortium is to quickly plan and establish a central HIV bank in the form of an exemplary, modern cryobank. In this HIV bank viruses and cells of the immune system as well as derivational reagents will be perfectly conserved at temperatures of liquid nitrogen. They can be retrieved at any time.
Characteristic for the Fraunhofer technology platform is for example that biological samples can be deposited in tiny closed substrates which allow the retrieval of part of the individual samples at very low temperatures. The advantage of these methods that were developed as part of the microsystem technology and nanobiotechnology projects of the BMBF is that the remaining valuable samples remain in cold and safe storage. Another component of the chain of cryobank developments is the electronic memory chip which is suitable for very low temperatures and is fixed to the sample. It can be read and labeled even at -180 °C. This frozen cryoworld is comparable to temperatures as they occur on Neptune. This is an invention that was not just important for cryobanks, but also for travel into outer space. The cryotanks contain the information of the central databank on each sample without error. Thus, portions of the central databank exist decentralized. A wrongly deposited sample would for example be identified and corrected through the continuous communication of the central databank with the frozen chips in 2 m high cryotanks. This technology sets standards not only for HIV collection. At the same time it is a key element in the emerging cell banking of stem cells and their use in regenerative medicine.
However, aside from establishing a unique virus bank, the storage of various reagents that are necessary for vaccine research is important. They will be available for the comprehensive virological and immunological characterization and will form the basis for developing further vaccines as well as therapies. The samples and the important primary biological data that is gained from them for biocomputer science can be accessed by scientist throughout the world.
The first S3 cryobank worldwide, an HIV-cryorepository, was officially brought into service at the Fraunhofer IBMT at the Sulzbach location, following a 2-step positive evaluation by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on September 14, 2007. Thus, the IBMT accommodates perhaps the most modern biobank in the world with electronic sample identification, chips fit for very low temperatures on every sample tube, and a high level of automation. In July 2009 the pilot-phase of this project was successfully completed in all points under the coordination of the Fraunhofer IBMT in close cooperation with 11 international partners. In 2009 the biobank and the associated laboratories were certified according to the European as well as the American GCLP-guidelines (Good Clinical Laboratory Practice).
Immediately after the project was completed the IBMT received an award of a second project. It will promote the expansion and international networking of the research bank on the one hand and develop urgently needed laboratory robots that will speed up vaccine development on the other hand. The expansion of the IBMT biobank technology can be used in many clinical and biotechnological applications. This project is also coordinated by Fraunhofer IBMT in close cooperation with the Medical Faculty of the University of the Saarland, the World Health Organization (WHO, Geneva), the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC, Great Britain), the University in Lund (Sweden), the San Raffaele Scientific Institute (DIBIT, Italy), the Instituto de Biologia Experimental e Tecnológica (IBET, Portugal), and the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF, Spain), as well as a network of medical organizations in third world countries.
HIV Specimen Cyrorepository