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The Flemish Government initiated in 2009 the Center for Medical Innovation (CMI), a non-for-profit organisation, in which the Flemish universities, university hospitals and bioindustry collaborate in order to stimulate translational research in Flanders and collaboration at international level.

The first aim was to jointly set up and coordinate the Flemish Biobank Initiative,  a network of decentral biobank infrastructures operating according to strict quality criteria for biomaterials and accompanying clinical data sets, with common access procedures in a harmonized ethical-legal framework and interconnected through an online catalogue of the biobank samples built on a decentralized backbone system.

An important objective of the Flemish Biobank is to foster collaborative platforms between clinical research centers at the universities, Flemish knowledge institutes and health industry.

Specific goals of the Flemish Biobank Initiative:

  1. to maintain and exploit a Flemish Biobanking infrastructure that is an integral part of BBMRI.be and BBMRI-ERIC and conforms to international quality and connectivity standard.
  2. to develop a governance structure for the Flemish biobanks that coordinates the implementation of quality and IT standards, stimulates valorisation of the biobanking collections, communicates the importance of biobanking to the general public, and advices government and regulatory bodies.
  3. to harmonize and facilitate access to biobank collections (and associated clinical data) within a legal and ethical framework that guarantees privacy and autonomy of patients and donors.
  4. to achieve optimal synergy with existing regional and national and international biobanking initiatives : the National tumour bank, the FWB-Biowin regional biobank, the European BBMRI initiative or other.
  5. to facilitate basic, clinical and translational research into new concepts for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of (multifactorial) diseases and to stimulate participation in the European EATRIS and ECRIN initiatives.
  6. to develop a long term and sustainable financial model for BBMRI.vlaanderen.

The establishment of the BBMRI.vlaanderen is prerequisite to position our universities within Europe.
Integrating biobanks that are in line with European initiatives (IMI, JPI, grand challenges, Horizon 2020) will leverage the European expertise, and are hence pivotal from a strategic point of view.