Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2009


At a time when most banks are struggling, one is doing things right. Folks at the National Cancer Institute are launching an effort to establish the U.S.'s first national biobank: a safe house for tissue samples, tumor cells, DNA and blood, which would be used for research into new treatments for diseases. Britain, Canada, Sweden and other countries have already begun building biobanks. Cancer is a smart place for the U.S. to start, since dozens of genes have been linked to the disease. Imagine the power of millions of samples of illnesses ranging from brain disorders to diabetes. The biobank will depend on donors, and privacy guarantees will have to be put in place. But if the idea works, we could have a bank that pays dividends in the form of something much more precious than money.