The Fondazione FiorGen was established in 2003 through the scientific collaboration between the Centro di Risonanze Magnetiche (CERM) of the Polo Scientifico (Scientific Campus) of Sesto Fiorentino and the Polo Biomedico of Careggi. It performs research activities aimed at scientific progress, cultural development and social solidarity, aiming at the identification of indications for pharmacological treatment and drugs that are “customised” on the basis of the individual genome in order to make treatments safer and more effective.
The Foundation is financially supported by the Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze, which has disbursed around 5 million euro. These funds have enabled the realisation of important projects such as the creation of the da Vinci European BioBank (daVEB) and the development of the “Melanoma Project”. The da Vinci European BioBank is a research infrastructure belonging to the Fondazione Farmacogenomica and is hosted at the Centro Risonanze Magnetiche (CERM), a centre of expertise for structural biology and metabolomics. It is the first Italian structure to qualify to become part of the European biobank network, a result that has been made possible by the synergy between molecular biologists, doctors and information scientists.
The biobank conserves biological samples and is equipped with a centralised data processing centre in which the information on the samples collected is filed in complete respect of the donors’ privacy. The creation of local repositories located elsewhere within the region is scheduled. At present the main repository, where the samples are conserved at extremely low temperatures (-80°C and -170°C), is fully operative, situated in the University Scientific Campus at Sesto Fiorentino. The equipment is supported by a special system for liquid nitrogen distribution, and the structure is equipped with a monitoring and control system able to record all the input signals coming from the equipment, recording and signalling any anomalies.
The samples conserved in the biobank may originate from donations from Hospital and University Research Units that are made available to the international scientific community, or may remain the property of researchers who entrust them to the biobank, which hence operates as a service centre for the collection, conservation and distribution of biological samples and the related data. Information about the activities, projects and personnel of daVEB and the collections of samples conserved can be found on the website: https://www. davincieuropeanbiobank.org/. The collections, which are in the process of being established and enhanced in terms of number, type and the associated clinical data, are made up of serum, plasma, tissue, DNA and urine samples obtained from patients suffering from different types of pathologies.
The daVEB collaborates with the CERM on the definition of validated standard operating procedures for the collection, transport and quality of conservation of the biosamples. The CERM in turn collaborates with the hospital units on research aimed at the identification of biomarkers for diagnosis, prognosis and monitoring the state of health of citizens. In this activity it avails of the services of daVEB, which ensures the collection and conservation of the samples in line with elevated standards. The daVEB is also part of the Italian Roadmap of Research Infrastructures at pan-European level, and since 2009 has been an associate member of the BBMRI (Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure). This structure is currently in the phase of transformation into the European consortium BBMRI-ERIC, in which the daVEB will be involved as part of the Italian node BBMRI-IT coordinated by the Italian Higher Institute of Health. The progress of the melanoma continues to be a biological and immunological enigma, and every effort made to identify potential new biomarkers is of the greatest interest and importance, on a par with those directed towards early diagnosis and the identification of therapeutic targets.