B3Africa ELSI Open Forum at the African Society for Laboratory Medicine, South Africa, 3-8 December 2016


The African Society for Laboratory Medicine was held in Cape Town, South Africa at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from the 3-8th December 2016. The H3Africa Biobank working group had a special session on Biobanking for Africa on Monday, the 5th from 8am-12pm. This session examined the need and use of biospecimen storage in Africa in order to drive research and policy development to respond to public health challenges. Various members from three of the B3Africa partners attended and represented B3Africa. This include Prof Alash’le Abimiku and Ms. Petronella Ozumba from the  Institute of Human Virology, Nigeria (IHAB), Prof Moses Joloba from Makarere University College of Health Sciences and Prof EA Abayomi and Dr. Carmen Swanepoel from NSB, Stellenbosch University.  Both Prof Abimuka and Prof Abayomi presented in this session alongside Prof, Prof Marianne Henderson from the National Institutes of Health and Proffs. Jantina De Vries and Nicola Mulder from University of Cape Town. Topics covered included Biobanking best practices and sustainability, big data, ELSI aspects as well as the role of Biobanking in the setting of biosecurity threaths; valuable experiences from H3Africa and B3Africa.


The B3Africa Open Forum

The B3Africa initiative held a half day open forum that was co-convened by the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS)/Stellenbosch University Biobank (NSB) and the South African National Bioinformatics Institute (SANBI), University of the Western Cape (UWC). The forum titled: “Biobanking, legal & ethical considerations, and data standardization & biosecurity in public health application” brought together experts in the fields of biobanking, information and communication technology, laboratory information management systems (LIMS) and ELSI. Concepts such as data/information security, ethical and regulatory issues harmonization of data standards, and biosecurity in resource limited settings was discussed. The meeting was well attended and 40 attendees (15 males & 25 females) participated from various local and institutional institutions, departments as well as HREC members and vendors. The session was very informative and a lot of discussions was generated dealing with pertinent issues that will aid in accelerating and facilitate biomedical and biobanking research across continents. The 1st speaker was Mr. Pieter Koornhof, an attorney from the Department of Law, UWC who gave an overview and impact of the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) in biobanking. Interesting discussions on privacy protection, data collection and transfer, fair and lawful processing as well as data protection standards/directives in other international countries was generated. In addition, concepts such as commercialization, intellectual property, ownership whether biospecimen and/or data are always brought up but would require separate discussions. Prof Alan Christoffels from SANBI, UWC gave an excellent overview on data harmonization, cyber security and the FAIR principle. He also emphasized that if we want to exchange knowledge than this would require standardization to allow interfacing between sample collection management and researchers and/or sample recipients. Prof Ames Dhai, the Director of the Steve Biko centre for Bioethics and a member of the B3Africa Advisory Board gave an update on the WMA Declaration of Taipei on Ethical Considerations regarding Health Databases and Biobanks (2016) as well as the Council for International Organisation of Medical Sciences (CIOMS) guidelines. Ms. Safia Mahomed, from the College of Law (Unisa) and a member of the Wits Biobanks Ethics Committee focused on ethical & legal considerations regarding Material Transfer Agreements (MTA). This led to discussion on institutional MTA’s vs governmental MTA’s and how MTA’s aren’t always enforced. Last but not least, Prof Abayomi from NSB, made attendees aware on the importance of sustainability as well as biosecurity. Attendees found the presentations entertaining and very informative and suggestions indicated that this would be very useful to ethics committee in order to educate them as well.


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