The roots of the Norwich Research Park Biorepository go back to 1999, when the “Norwich Tissue Bank” was first established. Professor Richard Ball, then Director of Pathology at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) and a group of individuals interested in cancer research and treatment from the NNUH, University of East Anglia (UEA) and the James Paget University Hospital set up the tissue bank to support biomedical research, as “The Partners in Cancer Research Human Tissue Bank.”
Setting up and running the tissue bank was made possible through a grant from Big C, Norfolk’s Cancer Charity. The bank collected samples of tumour tissues donated by patients who had given their informed consent before undergoing surgery at the partner NHS trusts. The initial focus was on breast, prostate and bladder cancer tissue, reflecting the interests of the research groups at UEA at the time.
Over time, the scope widened to include other tissues as other research groups became partners, including those from across the Norwich Research Park in the Norwich Medical School at UEA, and the Quadram Institute Bioscience (formerly the Institute of Food Research). The tissue bank also provided material for organisations beyond the local area, including companies. Its work was overseen by a committee that scrutinised applications for tissue, ensuring that they have full scientific and ethical validity.
In 2016, and now known as the Norwich Research Park Biorepository, the facility moved into a purpose-built space with state-of-the-art freezer and retrieval systems in the Bob Champion Research and Education (BCRE) building, with capital funding awarded through the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).