Technological advances and other innovations have made it feasible for developing countries to establish biobanks — repositories of human biological samples linked with data from individuals, write S. K. Sgaier and colleagues in Science.
They see the likely emergence of a global consortium of biobanks as offering "accessible and affordable studies in diverse populations" permitting "imaginative search for common and rare genetic and other biological correlates of global diseases".
One technological development is the use of dried blood spots (DBS) instead of costly serum samples that must be kept cold continuously.
And in Indian household surveys last year, only five per cent of people refused to give dried blood samples, compared with refusal rates of nearly 40 per cent for serum samples.
The authors highlight the importance of linking samples with improved disease and mortality surveillance systems, citing India's 'Million Death Study' — an initiative to examine the underlying risk factors of disease in the country — as a pioneering example of data collection.
Sgaier and colleagues are investigating the issues involved in building a national DBS-based biobank in India, which they estimate would cost US$10 per person, compared to US$240 per person for the serum-based UK Biobank.