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An Overview of Biorepositories-Past, Present, and Future

Publication Status: Published

Sponsoring Organization: Defense Health Agency (formerly TRICARE Management Activity)

Sponsoring Office: Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center

Congressionally Mandated: No

Funding Source: Defense Health Agency (formerly TRICARE Management Activity)

Release Date/Publication:

Principle Investigator Status: Government

Primary DoD Data Source: Other Clinical

Secondary DoD Data Source:


The collection, storage, and distribution of biological materials for research and improving health have been employed for more than a century. Biorepositories have been used to maintain and reallocate these specimens. Historically, the Department of Defense (DoD) has been maintaining biorepositories and using the materials stored to expand our understanding of diseases and for developing medical countermeasures since the Civil War. Other U.S. Government and nongovernmental organizations are also engaged in curating human and other samples for future studies, as are organizations in other countries. The reasons for collection and the possible uses of specimens maintained within repositories have changed with the advent of novel technologies and the genomics discipline. However, over the years, many of the issues faced by repositories have remained largely the same, although of increased importance more recently because of limited funding and enhanced ethical concerns. These issues include what samples to collect; how to collect, transport, and store the samples; legal and ethical matters relating to sample collection and use; durability of analytes of interest in stored specimens; assessing the quality of stored specimens and providing researchers with statements of specimen quality; costs; maintenance and sustainability of the repository; and, implementing and maintaining laboratory quality programs and possibly accreditation. National and international scientific groups are working to identify and define best practices, but universal standards and practices remain challenges for the future. To begin addressing the above issues, the DoD implemented several initiatives, which are described elsewhere in this Military Medicine Supplement. Additionally, staff members working on the issues saw potential value in identifying other biorepository groups and similar work being done by these groups with the expectation of developing lines of communication and, eventually, even collaboration in establishing universal standards and practices. The repositories identified are briefly discussed in this report.


Siwek M. An Overview of Biorepositories-Past, Present, and Future. Mil Med. 2015 Oct;180(10 Suppl):57-66.

Last Updated: July 11, 2023
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