Members of ESBB Council

Elke Smits

President of ESBB

Elke Smits earned her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the University of Leuven, a Master of Science in Biotechnology and a PhD in Veterinary Sciences in 1998 from the University of Gent in Belgium. Elke Smits joined Devgen Inc, a spin-off company in Gent, as manager molecular cell biology for target discovery and drug development projects. In 2004, she became senior scientist at the Flemish Science Policy Council, the advisory body for the Flemish regional government concerning science and innovation policy. She has published over 20 peer-reviewed articles, holds several patents, wrote many policy advices and recommendations and authored the study series, Technology and Innovation in Flanders: Priorities.

Prof. dr. Elke Smits currently heads the Science & Innovation department of the Antwerp University Hospital and has gained extensive experience in merging translational research and biobanking within a clinical setting. She holds a visiting professorship position at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Antwerp and is liaison officer Clinical Research Center Antwerp for the Center for Medical Innovation.

Within ESBB, Elke leads the “ESBBtranslate” Pharma-Academia Working Group, together with Dr Christina Schroeder from Fraunhofer Institute in Germany and prof. 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 with the pharmaceutical, biotech and ICT industry.

Balwir Matharoo-Ball


Dr Balwir (Bal) Matharoo-Ball has a wealth of experience in academic research as well as the NHS. Bal has worked for the Nottingham Health Science Biobank (NHSB) since January 2011 and is currently the Deputy Director. In this role her principal interests have been to align the resources of the NHS, as a single service provider, and provide a unique platform for translational and stratified medicine in the UK. Part of this initiative has been a novel policy of the co-evolution of biobanking and informatics resources within the NHS. Bal is Chair of the NHSB Access Committee and Ethics and Public Patient Involvement (PPI) lead and a member of the PPI Strategy Board for Nottingham University NHS Trust. She is also a co-applicant on the national virtual Breast Cancer Now Tissue Bank initiative which has secured over £3 million in grant funding. Bal has been a member of European, Middle Eastern and African Society for Biopreservation and Biobanking (ESBB) and also International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER) since 2012. For the past 3 years Bal has been a member and actively contributed of the ESBB Programme committee. Recently Bal was been given the delightful position to be Chair of the ESBBtranslate working very closely with Dr Christina Schroeder and Dr Oliver Gros from Fraunhofer Institute in Germany. Bal is also a reviewer for the Biopreservation and Biobanking journal.

Erik Steinfelder

Past-president of ESBB

Erik earned his Bachelor of Science in Analytical Chemistry at the Saxion Hogeschool in Deventer, Netherlands and completed Foundations of Management at the Nyenrode Business University in Breukelen, Netherlands. Since 1998 he chaired several Conference Program Committees related to Laboratory Automation and Informatics, participated in Organizing Committees around Food Safety, Animal Healthcare and Water Management and was a member of the editorial advisory board of Laboratory Magazine.

Erik Steinfelder had various commercial roles in Labautomation companies and Contract Laboratories before he joined Thermo Fisher Scientific. Currently he is heading the complete biobank portfolio and activities for Thermo Fisher Scientific as the Biobank Commercial Leader in EMEA.

Within ESBB Erik is the current President, Founding member, Chair of the Vendor Committee 2013-2015 and Program Committee Member 2011-2015.

Barbara Parodi


Barbara Parodi is a medical doctor and Executive Manager of the Biological Resource Centre of the National Institute for Cancer Research (IRCCS AOU San Martino – IST) of Genoa, Italy. She has been deeply involved in biobanking for many years, dealing with scientific, organizational, technical and ethical issues. Her expertise is mainly in the management of biobanks, GLP and GMP. She has participated in the OECD Task Force on BRCs and contributed to the compilation of the OECD Best Practice Guidelines for Biological Resource Centres (2007).

Barbara's contribution to the Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure (BBMRI) started with the Preparatory Phase, and continues both at the European and National levels, where she works as project manager of the Italian national node of BBMRI. She also participates in the Microbial Resource Research Infrastructure (MIRRI) and in the Global BRC Network (GBRCN). She is involved in several international working groups, including the “BioResource Impact Factor” initiative and the working group on sustainability of biobanks.

Barbara is Treasurer of ESBB and a member of both Bureau and Council. She is also involved in the ESBBperanto working group, takes part in the Jury of the Biobank of the Year competition, and was a member of the 2013 Program Committee.

Christian Chabannon

ESBB Secretary

Christian Chabannon is a Professor of Medicine at the Université d’Aix-Marseille, and a full member at the Institut Paoli-Calmettes, the Comprehensive Cancer Center in Marseille. Since 2000, he is the head of the Cell Therapy Facility as well as the tumor bank / Biological Resource Center for Oncology at IPC. Previously, Pr. Chabannon trained at the Lyon and Grenoble University Hospitals in France, and at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA, USA. He is a board-certified specialist in Hematology and Medical Oncology. His medical and scientific interests lie in hematopoietic stem cell biology and transplantation, the development of cell therapies, and more generally clinical and translational research in hematology and medical oncology. Pr. Chabannon is a member of several scientific societies. He currently serves as President for JACIE, the Joint Accreditation Committee for ISCT Europe and EBMT, which delivers accreditation to European hematopoietic stem cell programs complying with FACT-JACIE standards. He is also the scientific coordinator for Cancéropôle PACA, the regional cancer research network that promotes networking and communication in all aspects of oncology research in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur area; one of the prominent successes of Cancéropôle PACA has been the establishment of a common and shared web-based catalogue for its three tumor banks.
Contact details: chabannonc(at)

Anna Bosch Comas


Anna Bosch Comas is the Scientific Coordinator of the IDIBAPS-Hospital Clinic Biobank, located in one of the largest academic hospitals in the city of Barcelona. Since 2012 she is also the Core Facility Manager of the Institution.

Most of her scientific career has been linked to the path of Biobanking in Spain. She obtained her PhD in the Genetics Department of the University of Barcelona. Right after that, two years before the approval of the Spanish Law of Biomedicine, she was appointed the Technical Coordination of the IDIBAPS Metabolic Disease Biobank. This position was her first contact with the emerging discipline of Biobanking and involved the planning and configuration of a networked Biobank with the corresponding recruitment of the sample processing team, the elaboration of SOPs, the coordination of the working group for the elaboration of Informed Consent documents and the organization of the new Biobank dependencies, among other duties.

The success of the Metabolic Disease Biobank was the seed of the IDIBAPS Biobank, one of the current largest Hospital Biobanks in Spain which annually serves thousands of standardized samples to ethically and scientifically accepted research projects. The approval of the Biomedicine Law in 2007 was the perfect catalyst for the organization of human sample collections into Institutional Biobanks under a common management model and following strict quality and confidentiality regulations. Her main responsibilities as the Scientific Coordinator of the IDIBAPS Biobank have been the strategic planning and budget management, team supervision, evaluation and harmonization of retrospective collections and diffusion activities.

Jens Habermann


Trained as Medical Doctor at the University of Lübeck, Germany, I obtained my full license as a physician in the department of surgery. My doctoral thesis in medicine focused on early detection of increased cancer risk in patients with chronic inflammatory bowel disease and was based on a longitudinal study analyzing biopsy samples. Further, I enrolled in the formal Ph.D. program at the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, where I received my Ph.D. in Cancer Genomics and Proteomics from the Cancer Center Karolinska. I complemented my research experiences with a five year postdoctoral fellowship granted by the National Cancer Institute, NIH, Bethesda, USA. Most of my research projects have a translational focus and are therefore based on high quality biospecimens. Early on, I experienced that quality of biospecimens can greatly vary trans‐ institutionally and suffer from incomparability.

Thus, when getting appointed to lead the laboratory for experimental surgery at the University Clinic in Lübeck in 2005, I extended the in‐house biobank for solid malignancies and initiated the North German Tumor Bank for Colorectal Cancer (ColoNet). ColoNet was one of four trans‐regional disease focused biobank networks in Germany funded by the German Cancer Aid Foundation 1. As coordinator of ColoNet – comprising four university clinics and 12 non‐university clinics – and as steering committee member of all four biobank networks, I gained in‐depth experience in harmonizing, establishing and applying e.g., standard operation procedures (SOPs), biobank‐based IT infrastructure, quality management, and minimal data sets. ColoNet was further involved in the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) funded project “P2B2”, a blueprint for various biobank access portals.

In 2012, I received a Professorship for Biobanking and was nominated the University’s representative to establish the Interdisciplinary Center for Biobanking‐Lübeck (ICB‐L). The ICB‐L is a central hospital‐ integrated biobank at the Campus Lübeck that currently serves more than 24 different medical disciplines 2. Major achievements are a DIN EN ISO 9001 : 2008 certified quality management system, a campus‐wide three‐stage broad consent procedure, a campus‐wide harmonized dataset comprising about 1.700 parameters, a central biobank IT‐system operating in the clinical context, (automated) cryo‐conservation down to ‐170°C, and a financial business plan for long‐term sustainability. In close connection with my research laboratory, ICB‐L also performs biospecimen research to enhance biospecimen quality to benefit biomedical research and enable individualized medicine 3, 4, 5.

I have become an ESBB member after participating at the ESBB inauguration meeting in Marseille 2011 and participate in the (ISBER) working groups hospital‐integrated biobanks and ESBBtranslate. I am also a member of the program committees for the ISBER conference in Phoenix and the ESBB conference in London this year. In addition, I am a member of the German biobank working group (TMF e.V.) and involved in the working group of the German Institute for Standardization (DIN) that develops and harmonizes standards for biobank specific certifications.


1 Oberländer M, Linnebacher M, König A, Bogoevska V, Brodersen C, Kaatz R, Krohn M, Hackmann M, Ingenerf J, Christoph J, Mate S, Prokosch HU, Yekebas EF, Thorns C, Büning J, Prall F, Uhlig R, Roblick UJ, Izbicki JR, Klar E, Bruch HP, Vollmar B, Habermann JK; ColoNet consortium: The "North German Tumor Bank of Colorectal Cancer": status report after the first 2 years of support by the German Cancer Aid Foundation. Langenbecks Arch Surg. 2013 Feb;398(2):251-8.


3 Gemoll T, Löwe O, Borén M, Oberländer M, Hartwig S, Lehr S, Roblick UJ, Auer G, Jörnvall H, Habermann JK: The impact
of pre-analytical conditions on the serum proteome: heat-stabilization versus nitrogen storage. Arch Physiol Biochem. 2013

4 Bünger S, Klempt-Giessing K, Toner V, Kelly M, Fitzgerald SP, Brenner H, von Eggeling F, Habermann JK: A novel multiplex-protein array for serum diagnostics of colorectal cancer: impact of pre-analytical storage conditions. Biopreserv Biobank. 2013 Dec;11(6):379-86.

5 Oberländer M, Alkemade H, Bünger S, Ernst F, Thorns C, Braunschweig T, Habermann JK: A “waterfall” transfer-based workflow for improved quality of tissue microarray construction and processing in breast cancer research. Pathol Oncol Res.
2014 Jul;20(3):719-26.

Paul Bartels


I qualified as a veterinarian and later completed an MSc in Zoology at the University of Pretoria. I initiated a project which explored the potential of using assisted reproduction for the benefit of endangered wildlife species. In 1996 the research project found a new home at the Endangered Wildlife Trust, a wildlife NGO, and the project expanded its operations to include the banking of all biomaterials from wildlife species for biodiversity conservation and biotechnology development. In 2005, the government recognized the wildlife biomaterials bank as a National Asset and after reaching agreement between the parties, transferred the banking operations to the National Zoological Gardens of the National Research Foundation (NRF), an agency of the Department of Science and Technology. I headed up the NZG Biobank for the next nine years and which collection currently houses over 75 000 samples from over 1000 species. Different tissue-types are banked under different conditions including ultra-low refrigeration in mechanical freezers and Liquid Nitrogen. I completed a term as Board member of ISBER and currently am a member of its Scientific Programme and the Education and Training committee. I am also co-chair of the ESBB Enviro-Bio Working Group.

I am currently a board member of WESSA, the Wildlife and Environment Society of SA. For my contribution to conservation, I am the recipient of a Mazda Wildlife Top Ten Conservationist of the Decade Award and the 2006/07 NSTF National Science Award for my contribution to Science and Technology in South Africa. I have authored or co-authored more than 40 peer-review research publications. The biobanking programme has featured in numerous regional radio and TV programmes as well as six international documentaries (National Geographic, Discovery Channel, BBC and Beyond 2000).

In 2014 I was appointed by the Department of Science and Technology to champion Biobanks as new Large Research Infrastructure for South Africa and where we are in the process of completing the Biodiversity Biobank Implementation Plan due for completion in October 2015.

Roberto Bilbao


Since 2004, I have been involved in the coordination of 7 public hospitals working together as the Basque Biobank network, one of the current largest Biobank in Spain, to ensure the quality, logistical issues and the services to the Scientific community. My main responsibilities, as Director, are the technical supervision, strategic planning, budget management and the relations with the Biobank`s stakeholders.

The Basque Biobank is a hospital-integrated platform aimed at promoting basic/clinical research that may lead to the development of tools for the prevention, diagnosis and discovery of therapeutic targets. It was the first one to be authorized to run as a biobank in Spain according to the legal and technical requirements for operation.

I am also focused on the science of biobanking in an effort to determine the best methods for procuring and providing the highest quality specimens and data for research. In this regard, I have coordinated the European Commission funded project BIOOPOOL. The aim of BIOPOOL is to enable biobanks to build a network that links collections of histological digital images of biologic material and associated information managed by biobanks. Thus, the researchers can have access to this network, throughout text and image based search queries, region-of- interest extraction and automated pathology information extraction for specific types of cancers.

I strongly believe in the role of professional societies to serve the needs of biobank stakeholders. As a result, I became member of ISBER and ESBB to participate actively in different forums and working groups. Furthermore since the beginning of the Spanish Network of Biobanks, I have been involved in its organization being a member of the Executive Commission during 4 years (2010-2013). For example, I organized as a local host the 1st Congress of the Spanish Network of Biobanks in my hometown: Bilbao, in 2010. Actually, I coordinate the R&D&i of the new Spanish Biobanks Platform (2014-2018).

Dominik Lermen


Dr Dominik Lermen is Group Manager Biomonitoring & Biobanking at Fraunhofer IBMT and is based in Sulzbach, Germany. He received his PhD in stem cell biology from the University of Trier in association with the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT, and the German Research Foundation (DFG). His aim has always been to support activities that focus on protection of the environment and human health. Besides being involved in biodiversity related activities, human biomonitoring (HBM), the health-related surveillance of chemicals and environmental pollutants in human tissues and body fluids, is the main focus of his scientific work.

Dominik has been involved in the environmental division of the German Environmental Specimen Bank (ESB) since 2002. He became a regional manager of the Cryo-Brehm, the German Cell Bank for Wildlife in 2010 and has led the IBMT working group Biomonitoring & Biobanking since 2012 and has been head of the Fraunhofer IBMT branch Münster (North Rhine Westphalia, GER) since 2016. On behalf of the German Environment Agency he oversees two major biobanks for human biomonitoring in Germany, the German Environmental Specimen Bank (ESB) and the biobank of the German health related Environmental Survey (GerES).

Dominik is an active member of both ESBB and ISBER and in the past he has co-chaired the programme committees on behalf of both organisations.

Rosita Kammler


Rosita Kammler is Head of Translational Research Coordination for the International Breast Cancer Study Group (IBCSG) and European Thoracic Oncology Platform (ETOP). For the past 14 years her work has revolved around biobanking. Together with Professor Giuseppe Viale, she has been pivotal in building and conducting the translational research programs of IBCSG and ETOP, enabling state-of-the-art oncology research. She has been the driving force in establishing multiple biobanks of mammary and lung carcinoma, building a critical resource for the more than 35 translational research studies conducted by IBCSG/ETOP and collaborators over the years. She has also had a central role in managing all IBCSG/ETOP translational research studies since 2002 as well as the informatics systems required to support these. She also oversees all translational research activities conducted by IBCSG and ETOP in the course of prospective clinical trials and retrospective biomarker analyses.

Rosita has trained in international business management and her biobank management expertise includes knowledge of international regulatory implications for sample use and transfer

Robert Hewitt

Executive Officer

Robert Hewitt studied medicine at St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical School, London and later obtained a PhD at the Medical Research Council Virology Unit, Univ. of Glasgow. He worked 5 years in pathology as Clinical lecturer in Pathology at the University of Nottingham, before moving to Bethesda, Maryland, USA, to take up an NIH research fellowship from 1994-98 at the Lab of Pathology of the US National Cancer Institute. Robert has been involved in biobanking for the past sixteen years, and has been involved in setting up biobanks at Hammersmith Hospital in London, UK; then King Faisal Specailist Hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; and then National University Hospital in Singapore (the NUH-NUS Tissue Repository) where he also established a hospital-based cancer registry. He was ISBER president from 2008-2009 and chaired numerous committees from 2006 to 2013. He co-founded ESBB in 2010 and has been the Executive Officer from the start. He is also European Editor of the journal, Biopreservation and Biobanking. He was winner of the ISBER Distinguished Leadership & Service Award (2011) and the ISBER Outstanding Achievement in Biobanking (2012).

Rolf Morselt

Chair, Vendor Committee

Ayat Salman

Chair, Social Media Working Group

ESBB Governing Council

Council is the central decision-making body of the Association. It includes the following voting members:

  • President: Elke Smits (BE)
  • President-Elect: Balwir (Bal) Matharoo-Ball (UK)
  • Past-President: Erik Steinfelder (NL)
  • Secretary: Christian Chabannon (FR)
  • Treasurer: Barbara Parodi (IT)
  • Councilor: Anna Bosch Comas (ES)
  • Councilor: Paul Bartels (SA)
  • Councilor: Jens Habermann (DE)
  • Councilor: Roberto Bilbao (ES)
  • Councilor: Rosita Kammler (CH)
  • Councilor: Dominik Lermen (DE)

Council also includes the following non-voting members:

  • Executive Officer: Robert Hewitt (UK)
  • Chair of the Vendor Committee: Rolf Morselt (NL)
  • Chair of the Social Media Working Group: Ayat Salman (Canada)

Misson & Goals

The mission of ESBB is to advance the field of biobanking in support of research relating to healthcare, agriculture and the environment.

The goals of ESBB are as follows:

  1. Identify problems in the biobanking field and provide solutions.
  2. Encourage high professional standards in biobanking.
  3. Provide high value membership services for key actors in the biobanking field.
  4. Encourage participation from a wide range of repositories across the EMEA region.
  5. Provide a strong united voice for biobankers in the region, to influence development in their field.
  6. Partner with other organizations involved with, or related to biobanking
  7. Encouragge and support public-private biobank-related partnerships because of their scientific, medical and commercial importance.
  8. Promote stakeholder support for biobanking.

Strategies to achieve these goals have been defined in the ESBB Business Plan.