European and Middle Eastern Society for Biopreservation and Biobanking

Message from ESBB President

Speech given at General Assembly, 15th Sept 2016

Dear members of ESBB,

I am deeply honoured to be your newly elected President and I look forward to ‘carrying the torch’ on behalf of the profession for the next year.

I want at the outset to pay tribute to my predecessor Erik Steinfelder for the amazing work he has done as President – and indeed for the enormous contribution he has made over the past years in roles such as Chairman of our Vendor Committee and a member of Council. It has been a pleasure for me as President-elect to work with Erik – and I know that Erik will be there for me – with advice, encouragement and support – during my term.

This time last year Erik selected three themes  ‘The Members, the Partners and the Vendors ‘’ as areas  deserving extra reflection and attention during his term of office.  Based on his earlier Presidents Review,  I think we can all agree that he has fully achieved what he set out to deliver on these important concepts.

I would also like to welcome Bal as the incoming President-elect  I look forward to working with all the members of Council over the coming year.

I thought it might be helpful to give you a brief sense of my background and career. In 1994, I graduated as a chemist from the University of Leuven and as a biotechnologist from the University of Gent in Belgium. During my PhD in Veterinary Medicine, I gained my first experience of biobanking, starting with primary mammary gland epithelial cells from cows at the USDA in Beltsville, Maryland. For my work on in vitro cell culture model to replace animal exepriments, I was awarded a prize by the Royal APMA foundation in Belgium.

My full time career started by joining Devgen, a spin-off company in Gent, as manager of molecular cell biology for target discovery and drug development projects. In 2004, I became senior scientist at the Flemish Science and Innovation Policy Council, the advisory body for the Flemish regional government and wrote many policy documents and recommendations and authored the study series Technology and Innovation in Flanders. In advisory report 120, a global multiple-year plan for translational research in Flanders was presented which strengthens all affected actors via an integrated approach and also ensures consultation and harmonisation of all expertise in biobanking and translational research. Time to bring policy advise into practice.

In 2008, I shifted my career to start the clinical research center within the Antwerp University hospital where I have gained extensive experience in merging translational research and biobanking within a clinical setting.

Within ESBB, I served for a term as councillor and I also started ESBBTranslate working group with Christina Schroeder from Fraunhofer Institute in Germany and Eoin Gaffney, Pathologist and founder of the Biobank Ireland trust. The goal is to bring together a forum to enable and enhance public-private biobank related partnerships within the European framework and foster biobank-based R&D and innovation within the pharmaceutical, biotech and ICT industry.

ESBB is a dynamic society within an independent legal structure and is reaching its more mature position in its area of influence. In my double affiliation, both as innovation manager in the healthcare sector and as liaison officer for the virtual biobanknetwork in Belgium, I am aware of the sense-of-urgence and clear need in coherent policy and partnerships in biobanking and clinical research activities within these communities.

In recent months, together with my fellow Council members, I have been working with Erik and Robert, in developing a strategy to guide our organisation for the coming years.

Based on my experience as co-founder of ESBBTranslate, my intention will be to bring together a forum to enable and enhance these public-private partnerships and to foster integration into other diverse fields of biopreservation and biobanking, across countries and nations within the international framework.

The development of this strategy comes at an inflection point in ESBB’s recent history. A collaboration agreement with BBMRI has been signed for organising ESBB annual meetings together during the coming five years. Next year’s global biobank meeting will be hosted in Stockholm, for the first time a joint initiative involving not only ESBB and BBMRI, but also ISBER.

In this context, our strategy needs to strongly reflect the feedback we receive through our extensive consultations with members and stakeholders. We are being encouraged to focus and prioritise our efforts on significant initiatives of relevance such as ensuring :

  • That we identify and solve problems in biobanking;
  • That we encourage high professional standards;
  • That we provide high value membership services;
  • That we encourage participation for all EMEA region;
  • That we provide a strong united voice for biobankers;
  • That we partner with related organisations;
  • That we encourage public-private partnerships;
  • That we promote stakeholder support.

In this changing environment, transforming ESBB into the next generation society for biopreservation and biobanking is a long term challenge. Therefore, I believe in co-responsibility and inspiration. These are themes very close to my own heart, and you will be hearing a lot more from me over the year in relation to these! Open dialogue and mutual knowledge exchange combined with decentralised training activities and workshops is essential for leading the European, Middle East and Africa Society for Biopreservation and Biobanking.

Before I conclude, I would like to thank Robert for his unwavering dedication to best practice across all aspects of the organisation.  The 2015/16 Presidential term was one of great developments and change which has helped us to improve our organisation as a whole, and I look forward to continuing and sustaining this progress in the coming 12 months.

As President I pledge to give the role my total focus and attention.  It is an enormous honour, and this occasion is of great significance for me and for my family.

Thank you,

Elke Smits

President ESBB

Vienna Conference was a big success!

682 participants registered including 521 delegates and 161 exhibitors. 98% registered participants actually attended the conference which is a very good result.

Preliminary feedback on speaker presentations has been very positive with many people noting the high quality of the talks.

More conference feedback to follow soon.


Architects Acknowledged

At the closing ceremony, Manuel Morente (former President) and Pasquale De Blasio (founding President) were congratulated by Kurt Zatloulal and Jan-Eric Litton of BBMRI-ERIC. The four men originally developed plans for the collaboration between ESBB and BBMRI-ERIC at a meeting in Amman, Jordan in April 2014.

This led to signature of the 4 year collaboration agreement between the two organisations by Hans-Peter Deigner and Jan-Eric Litton in London last year.