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Biorepository & Specimen Resource Center

Helping Advance Medical Knowledge

By donating blood or tissue samples, people may contribute to helping advance medical research and the products available for medical care. Studying these samples – called biospecimens – may lead to new understanding and treatment of medical conditions and diseases.


Medical Research

At Aurora Research Institute’s Biorepository and Specimen Resource Center (BSRC), we collect, store and provide biospecimens (samples of biological materials) for medical research and product development.

Our mission is to support research that may lead to new treatments or products and improve health care.

We store thousands of blood, blood products and tumor tissue specimens. When researchers need other biospecimens, such as urine, saliva, cardiovascular tissue or healthy tissue, our expert staff can find, collect and provide them too.

The biospecimens we store include:

  • Blood products: We store blood, plasma (the liquid part of whole blood) and blood serum (blood without white and red blood cells and clotting agents). We keep these blood products in special vials in freezers at minus 20 or minus 80 degrees Celsius.
  • Tumor tissue: We store tumor tissue at minus 80 degrees Celsius in freezers or at temperatures as low as minus 150 degrees Celsius in liquid nitrogen. Also, we store tissues in solid blocks preserved by chemicals. These are called formalin-fixed paraffin embedded tissue blocks.

Check out a story about the BSRC supporting a brain cancer study at Aurora on the CBS 58 website.


The BSRC Advantage

When people allow us to use their blood or other biospecimens for research and product development, we put safeguards in place to protect their privacy and keep their samples anonymous.

Our safeguards include:

  • Consent: We only use biospecimens from people who give written consent to use their biological materials for research and product development.
  • Privacy: Every biospecimen has its own coded identification number. We keep these numbers separate from donors’ names and other personal details. Researchers and companies do not know who the materials come from and have no way to access that information.
  • Honest brokers: Staff specially trained in protecting donor privacy act as “honest brokers.” They are the only ones who can access the donor’s identity. They can provide appropriate medical information from electronic health records to the researchers or companies, like medical conditions or treatments. They do not pass on information about the donor’s identity.
  • Your choice: We will not pressure anyone to allow their blood or tissue to be used for research or product development. Donating biological materials is an individual choice, and we respect patients’ decisions.

Learn about BSRC research projects.


How We Collect Biospecimens

Across Aurora Health Care, we draw tens of thousands of tubes of blood every week as part of our normal testing and diagnosis procedures. Similarly, our active oncology surgery program removes tumors frequently.

When a surgeon removes a tumor, we keep samples of this tumor tissue for 10 years. This allows physicians to compare tissue if a new tumor develops and helps us determine the best treatments.

We collect consented biospecimens in several ways, including:

  • Blood draws: When we draw blood for testing, we store the unused portion in our biorepository to use for research and product development.
  • Special requests: If a researcher or company needs blood from a person with a specific condition, like breast cancer, we ask people with the condition if they would like to participate in the project. People who consent can donate extra blood when they are having blood drawn as part of their treatment.
  • Removed tumors: After our surgeons remove a tumor, they send samples of the tissue for clinical diagnosis. We collect tumor tissues that aren’t needed for clinical purposes, so that researchers and companies wishing to develop new products can study them. We freeze some tissue specimens. We chemically process others to store in a stable, solid form.
  • Healthy tissue: Sometimes researchers and companies need healthy tissue to compare with diseased tissue. We ask people undergoing procedures that give access to this tissue if they would like to donate some healthy tissue for medical research or product development.
  • Other biospecimens: When researchers need other types of biological materials, like cardiovascular tissue, urine or saliva, our experts will locate and approach people within our health care system who are willing to provide biospecimens for research.

If you have any questions, contact us.


Providing the Biospecimens Researchers Need Efficiently

We work with researchers to collect and provide the high-quality biospecimens they need when they need them for their approved medical research and product development.

The advantages of working with BSRC include:

  • Capacity: We store over 70,000 biospecimens from about 30,000 individuals.
  • Diverse population: Aurora is one of Wisconsin’s largest regional health care systems. Our enormous and diverse pool of potential donors means we are likely to find enough consenting donors to fit your research or product development criteria.
  • Specimen donors: We see more than 1.2 million individuals every year. Of the people we approach, about 70% are pleased to participate in this type of activity and consent to donate biospecimens.
  • Customized response: Our team will work with you to find the biospecimens you need.

To apply for biospecimens for medical research or product development, complete the BSRC Request form (PDF download).

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Learn About Our Research

Find out more about our current research projects.

Make a Donation

Your donation can help fund critical research or help to develop new medical products.

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