For decades, biobanking has been held up as an essential research tool. While few doubt the scientific value of having catalogues of well-characterized tissues, cells, and other samples, these research platforms have also generated a significant amount legal and ethical controversy, especially in the context of consent and the control of research samples. Despite the ubiquity of biobanks, there continues to be vigorous debate about issues such as how consent should be obtained and the control of donated material.
This reality has created a remarkable situation. Throughout the world, billions of public and private dollars have been invested in biobanks and millions of individuals have been asked to donate biological material and personal information. But, at the same time, there remains deep uncertainty about fundamental legal and ethical norms.