TO: All Health Sciences Faculty

FROM: Arthur S. Levine, MD
Senior Vice Chancellor for the Health Sciences
Dean, School of Medicine

DATE: March 13, 2007

RE: Schools of the Health Sciences Policy Regarding Use of Human Biological Materials

The collection and study of human biological materials has proven to be a key research tool that has led to many fundamental breakthroughs in our understanding of human disease as well as basic knowledge about cellular function, DNA, RNA, and proteins--the very building blocks of life. As valuable as these materials are to the growth of knowledge, we have a very real obligation to the persons who donate these materials to ensure that they are utilized in a manner that is ethical and that maximizes the dissemination of the research data generated with those materials. In a large institution such as the University, lack of information about already available collections of biological materials may stall research or result in additional human subjects being asked to donate materials. Finally, as the value of the information residing within these collections becomes known to industry, commercial parties may seek to access these limited resources for the benefit of their interests.

In order to ensure that human biological materials are handled ethically, and in a manner that ensures that the knowledge gained from these materials may be broadly shared, I convened a Task Force, co-chaired by Drs. Steven Reis and Barbara Barnes, to develop a policy on the use of such materials. The resulting policy, which is attached, provides for registration of existing tissue banks and broad guidelines to govern responsible sharing of these resources. Oversight for the tissue bank registration will rest with a new Office for the Oversight of Anatomic Specimens, reporting to Dr. Barbara Barnes.

If you use such materials in your research and are not already registered with the Health Sciences Tissue Bank, I ask for your immediate cooperation in providing the requested information to the Office for Oversight of Anatomic Specimens which is currently located in Suite 10055-A Forbes Tower. Further questions regarding this policy should be directed to Dr. Barnes by telephone at 412-647-8212 or by e-mail at

Thank you.

1) Health Sciences Tissue Bank Policy - Management and Use of Human Biological Materials for Research Purposes
2) Health Sciences Tissue Bank Registration Form