Biobank and Registry Financial Management
Developing a Budget
As with any program initiative, it is important to develop a working budget. With a registry or biobank, it is essential to consider a multi-year budget that includes the costs of establishing and maintaining this resource. Each budget will be different, but you will want to consider the following elements:
- Start-up fees – These may include fees for joining, infrastructure development, software licenses, and database customization.
- Biorepository fees – These may include sample processing and storage fees. The number and types of samples will likely influence the total costs.
- Database fees – These may include fees to create records, fees for querying, or data use fees.
- Sample collection costs – These may include collection kits and materials, shipping, and collection fees, such as phlebotomy.
- Personnel costs – Remember to include staffing costs for overseeing and managing the day-to-day operations of your registry or biobank.
You will also want to include costs for printing and postage of recruitment materials, and travel for site visits to your vendors and/or continuing education of your biobank staff. Finally, you will want to include indirect costs in your budget.
The Foundation Center has an excellent tutorial on budgeting.
Fundraising for your Registry or Biobank
Registries and biobanks can be expensive, and it is important to develop a sustainable funding model for your program. Generally, costs can include start up fees, biorepository fees, database fees, sample collection fees and personnel costs. It is important to establish a budget (see Developing a Budget) and raise funds for establishing and maintaining the resource. Many organizations fund their initiatives from multiple sources, including:
- Research grants - www.grants.gov is a good resource for federal
opportunities. Most federal opportunities have very specific requirements that may only be feasible if your work is in alignment the agency¹s goal. Exploring state and local funding initiatives is another possibility.
- Foundations - Foundations are a good fit if you can closely align the
goals of your registry or biobank with the goals of the sponsor. There are many thousands of foundations that differ in the kinds of initiatives they support. It is important to establish a relationship with the foundation prior to seeking support. The Foundation Center (www.foundationcenter.org) has a variety of useful resources.
- Individual donors - Individual donors frequently support registries and
biobanks. These individuals will typically have a connection to the community served. There are also many recognition opportunities that can be implemented for varying levels of sponsorship.
- Cost recovery mechanisms - Passing costs on to those who use the samples
is a common practice in biobanking. However, cost recovery alone is not sufficient to fund a biobank, as researchers could never pay for the ³true cost² of obtaining a sample.
Cost recovery, the practice of passing costs on to those who use samples, is common in the biobanking field. Many funders actually require that a cost recovery plan be in place to receive funds. To develop a cost recovery plan, you must first understand your operational costs. Operational costs include staffing, freezer and liquid nitrogen tank costs, materials and reagents, database management and maintenance, and consenting/following-up with donors. You may also have additional operational costs not listed here. In calculating your costs, don’t forget to take into account the administrative burden of invoicing and collecting fees. Slow or no payment can be real issues for day-to-day operations.
In addition to understanding your operational costs, you should also identify a goal for cost recovery. It is unrealistic to assume cost recovery will fund all operations of your biobank, as most researchers could not afford the “true cost” of a biospecimen. Some biobanks use cost recovery to pay for physical materials and reagents, and utilize other funding sources (e.g. grant funding) for salary support. Others use a fee for service model to help defray the cost of storage and distribution of samples. (Remember to include the costs of shipping samples if applicable.) Biobanks who have significant grant support can typically charge lower fees, and this model is not sustainable for all biobanks.
Even if your biobank is well funded, it is important to have a cost recovery plan to promote good stewardship of biospecimens as a finite resource. Consider who will be using your samples when developing your plan. Tiered-fee structures and membership models may be appropriate but require more administration. Waivers could be an option for those without sufficient funding to pay fees. Additionally, you can request that investigators using your samples request funds in their grants.