EXPERT CENTER FOR METABOLOMICS

Having identified the benefits of metabolomics approaches for sample quality evaluation, various COSMOS partners, as well as some other private and public stakeholders, have established a consortium of institutions involved in metabolomics activities as a follow-up of the implementation of a working group between the NMR metabolomics working group of COSMOS and BioMedBridges described in Deliverable 6.2 (see the COSMOS website).

The consortium, named EXCEMET (Expert Center for Metabolomics; http://www.excemet.org/) proposes itself as a reference infrastructure for biobanks. The synergy arising from coordinated actions between these scientific entities is foreseen as a method to push forward the metabolomics field and to provide a scientific support for the development of validated quality control measures based on molecular profiling within biobanks. EXCEMET proposes itself as a reference infrastructure for biobanks and has been described as a model of a BBMRI-ERIC Expert Center. EXCEMET has been established as a not-for-profit public-private-partnership based on a consortium agreement between participants from academia and industry. The involvement of the Medical University of Graz, with a research unit lead by Prof. Kurt Zatloukal, who coordinated the preparatory phase of the European biobanking and biomolecular research infrastructure (BBMRI) during the 7th EU framework programme, testifies the close links that have been established between the metabolomics and the biobanking community. Prof. Zatloukal is also member of the Advisory Board of COSMOS.

EXCEMET will complement the activities of the biobanks, extending the access from high quality samples to advanced biomolecular analyses and the dissemination of curated knowledge from those analyses in open-access, long-term maintained databases.

EXCEMET foresees to contribute assessing and developing a number of critical steps of the overall workflow implemented at biobanks, in particular:

  • to check the performances of adopted procedures for sample storage, as different conditions may influence the molecular profiles;
  • to evaluate the effect of preanalytical steps on the sample quality and stability via metabolic profiling, to propose standard operating procedures (SOPs) to be implemented for deposition in biobanks;
  • to make a comparative evaluation of the various sample stabilizers and to provide hints for the new stabilizers;
  • to check quality/integrity of biobank samples, in terms of intactness of the original metabolome (good warranty of the intactness of the overall biomolecular profile);
  • to define shelf-life in biobanks;
  • to evaluate the minimum samples number to be tested for statistical significance;
  • to generate a common set of reference samples to be shared among the different members of EXCEMET, and to be used as common internal standards to improve interoperability across the centers;
  • to achieve technical developments for decreasing the minimal sample volume, increasing sensitivity/reduction of experiment time; reducing the costs, and improving reproducibility of the results, in order to propose a better service to biobanks.

The strong links and interactions between EXCEMET and COSMOS are witnessed by the presence of three COSMOS partners as members of the EXCEMET consortium. However EXCEMET is an open consortium and it is possible to include new additional partners at any time, especially other COSMOS partners.