Database will streamline tissue search for researchers

by John Keenan, UNMC public relations | May 25, 2018

Image with caption: From left, Geoff Talmon, M.D., director of the UNMC Paraffin Tissue Bank, and Scott Campbell, Ph.D., director of infomatics for the UNMC Department of Pathology and Microbiology

From left, Geoff Talmon, M.D., director of the UNMC Paraffin Tissue Bank, and Scott Campbell, Ph.D., director of infomatics for the UNMC Department of Pathology and Microbiology

The UNMC Department of Pathology and Microbiology has created a new tissue bank database, for use by all UNMC researchers, to streamline the process of getting tissue for use in studies.

The centerpiece of the initiative is an inventory management system, created by Scott Campbell, Ph.D., director of informatics for the UNMC Department of Pathology and Microbiology, and his team. The database is searchable by researchers across the UNMC campus.

"They can search to see what's there and order materials that way," said Geoff Talmon, M.D., Linder Pathology Residency Director Distinguished Chair and director of the UNMC Paraffin Tissue Bank. Although the material is all de-identified, "if researchers do have IRB approval for identified information, we can give that to them, as well."

Dr. Talmon said some UNMC studies have to purchase tissue from outside vendors for research purposes.

"We're trying to get rid of obstacles for our researchers," he said. "My vision is no researcher on campus should have to purchase material form an outside institution."

Dr. Talmon also hopes eventually to link the database with other UNMC databases, such as EPIC and the cancer registry.

The novel thing about the database, Dr. Talmon said, is the searchability and the expandability of the database management system.

Dr. Campbell said that in creating the database, his team used a brand-new database technology that he compared to Facebook in its ease of use and ability to support open-ended searches.

"It took almost a year to build, and that was with about two years of prior experimentation on it," Dr. Campbell said.

"The hope is that we could facilitate researchers in being able to ask different types of questions as they are looking for tissue that might support their needs."

The research community on campus is excited about the new database, Dr. Campbell said. He and Dr. Talmon credited many people -- including Chris Kratochvil, M.D., associate vice chancellor for clinical research, Ken Cowan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, Julia Ann Bridge, M.D., Benjamin Swanson, M.D., Ph.D., in the UNMC Department of Pathology and Microbiology, and Milissa Gerken and Jennifer Fontana of the Nebraska Medicine IT laboratory systems management group -- for teaming to make the new database a reality.

"The support from the principal investigators who have responsibility for their own biobanks has been very strong," Dr. Campbell said. "It's becoming a really fun effort, and it's nice to see what can be accomplished when a team of people are pulling together."

Researchers who want more information on the new database can call 9-4123 or visit the Paraffin Tissue Bank website.

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