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PHOEBE (Promoting Harmonisation of Epidemiological Biobanks in Europe)

‘Promoting Harmonisation of Epidemiological Biobanks in Europe’ (PHOEBE) was a Coordination Action under the EU FP6 programme which began in March 2006 and ended in August 2009. The project included 18 partners from 13 countries and was coordinated by Dr. Jennifer Harris at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo

The purpose of PHOEBE was to establish a collaborative research network to identify key issues and lay the groundwork for efforts to ensure that Europe makes best use of its rich array of population-based biobanks and longitudinal cohort studies. These include retrospective and prospective elements to cover major cohorts that already exist and new or planned initiatives. PHOEBE worked to: 

  1. Promote communication between major biobanking initiatives 
  2. Enhance the effective sharing and synthesis of information and data 
  3. Avoid expensive mistakes and inefficiencies that can arise when individual initiatives repeatedly “re-invent the wheel”.

PHOEBE was built around five work packages (WP) that reflect fundamental areas that must be tackled to harmonise biobanking at the European level. Harmonisation implies the use, where possible, of complementary protocols for data management, genotyping, phenotyping, and ethical-legal constructs. The WPs at the core of PHOEBE included:

  • WP1 - Epidemiology and Biostatistics (led by Professor Paul Burton, UK)
  • WP2 - Opportunities for Future Biobanking in Europe (led by Professor Paolo Gasparini, Italy)
  • WP3 - Databases and Biobank Information Management Systems (led by Professor Jan Eric Litton, Sweden)
  • WP4 - Strategies for Genotyping in large Scale Biobanks (led by Professor Leena Peltonen, Finland)
  • WP5 - Ethical and Societal Issues (led by Professor Anne Cambon-Thomsen, France)

PHOEBE co-operated closely with several related, international initiatives including the EU funded Genome-wide analyses of European twin and population cohorts to identify genes predisposing to common diseases (GenomEUtwin), Public Population Project in Genomics (P3G) in Canada and Public Health Genomics European Network (PHGEN).

A final conference “Harmonizing Biobank Research: Maximizing Value – Maximizing use” was organised in Brussels March 25-27, 2009 in co-operation with P3G and BBMRI. The conference gathered more than 250 people from over 35 countries. The conference report can be downloaded below (coming soon).