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What we collect

NIB has two core ‘collection’ strategies. The first is a prospective generic collection of human samples (tissues, matched bloods, and bodily fluids) which has historically focused on malignancies and premalignant lesions of the gastrointestinal tract, genitourinary tract, gynaecological tract, lung and breast. Increasingly, the prospective collections have become more hypothesis led to support specific study requests from researchers. Furthermore, NIB is now working more with healthcare and academic partners to expand collections beyond cancer. 

The second collection is referred to as the NIB ‘retrospective’ collection. This collection avails of regulated access to samples held in Health and Social Care (HSC) Trust laboratories for hypothesis led, ethically approved projects. NIB has been instrumental in creating an infrastructure to access and retrieve defined cohorts of Formalin Fixed Paraffin Embedded (FFPE) material from pathology archives to make them available for research use.  

Aside from sample collection and distribution, NIB also offers a hosting service for translational samples collected as part of clinical research studies. Services include receipt of samples, storage in secure facilities, and release of samples subject to appropriate approvals in place for their further use.

We have the infrastructure to collect and distribute
  • Fresh tissue for preclinical models
  • Fresh frozen tissue
  • Formalin-fixed paraffin embedded tissue
  • Blood samples across multiple time points
  • Bodily fluids eg urine, saliva, ascites

Additional services

NIB can also provide the following sample services
  • Creation of bespoke Tissue Microarrays
  • Nucleic acid extractions
  • Whole Slide Imaging

Sample access

Access to all NIB samples is governed by a robust application system. You must complete and submit an online application together with a study protocol. The application and the protocol are subject to peer review to determine the scientific validity of the proposal. Samples and data distributed by NIB are de-identified and are only released once a Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) has been executed between NIB and the end user.

NIB will accept applications from researchers internal and external to QUB. Researchers can be from an academic, healthcare, or commercial background and all applications must be made in the name of the Chief Investigator. We operate a 'two step' application process. Once you have registered on the portal, you will be invited to submit a preliminary application form which includes a study abstract and details of the samples required. The main purpose of the preliminary application is to determine the following:

  • The request for tissue samples is hypothesis-driven and describes a finite set of experiments with specific goals

  • All named co-investigators have confirmed their participation in the study

  • The required sample set is available within a realistic timeframe

  • There is evidence of sufficient funding to carry out the research for which the tissue or fluid samples are requested.

If the preliminary application meets the above criteria, you will invited to complete the full application form online. Completed full application forms must include comprehensive details of the study design and will be assigned a unique NIB reference number.

Applications for use of samples will be reviewed by two reviewers selected from the NIB Scientific Review Committee which comprises consultant histopathologists, clinicians, surgeons, and basic scientists.

Acknowledging NIB

Researchers in receipt of samples from NIB must acknowledge the NIB on any publications or conference proceedings arising from the use of the samples and the following form of words must be used.

‘The samples used in this research were received from the Northern Ireland Biobank which is funded by HSC Research and Development Division of the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland'.

Please also cite the following article in any published manuscripts which may arise from the use of these samples: 

Lewis C, McQuaid S, Clark P, Murray P, McGuigan T, Greene C, Coulter B, Mills K, James J, 2018, The Northern Ireland Biobank: A Cancer Focused Repository of Science.  Open Journal of Bioresources, 5: 9,


Quality management

NIB operates a robust quality management system to achieve compliance with internationally recognised quality standards in biobanking. To ensure transparency and good governance, NIB have policies and procedures in place to describe all activities and processes including, amongst others, policies and procedures for staff training, consent, data handling, sample traceability and sample access.