VA scientists are working to collect and share biological specimens to advance research into emerging infectious diseases like COVID-19. (Photo courtesy VA SHIELD.)
VA Further Develops Its Central Biorepository: VA SHIELD
September 15, 2023
"VA SHIELD facilitates research nationwide that is associated with COVID-19, antimicrobial resistance, host response, cancer, and immunologic response to infection and disease."
As part of VA’s effort to combat emerging diseases, the VA Office of Research and Development (ORD) has established a central biospecimen bank and data repository called the Science and Health Initiative to Combat Infectious and Emerging Life-Threatening Diseases (VA SHIELD).
VA SHIELD is designed to create a comprehensive repository of disease specimens and associated data available to advance scientific understanding of diseases and develop diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventative strategies for immediate use in clinical environments. VA SHIELD’s infrastructure now consists of a Coordinating Center, twelve collection sites, two biobanks, and a bioinformatics core.
Since its formation in January 2021, VA SHIELD has evolved into a comprehensive biorepository ready to support VA research endeavors, and recently achieved two large benchmarks for medical researchers.
As of August 2023, the biorepository has collected more than 40,000 specimens from VA hospitals. VA principal investigators are invited to request sharing those specimens for research purposes.
In addition, VA SHIELD received approval by the VA Central Institutional Review Board on July 20 to collect remainder specimens from clinical visits, as well as specimens collected with informed consent. Now VA SHIELD is seeking to collaborate with additional VA sites for the shipment of their remainder specimens and data to the VA SHIELD biorepository.
The design and use cases for VA SHIELD support an inclusive approach to VA Research, allowing traditional non-research and development locations—such as VA Community-Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOC) and rural sites—to participate in specimen collection and donation.
One of the fundamental values of VA SHIELD is the specimen use and reuse throughout the VA Research community. VA SHIELD considers spent samples that have future usage as a precious resource and worthy of consideration for inclusion in VA SHIELD at the conclusion of clinical trials, and as a secondary storage for previously used samples.
Currently, VA SHIELD facilitates research nationwide that is associated with COVID-19, antimicrobial resistance, host response, cancer, and immunologic response to infection and disease. With further development—particularly in VA SHIELD’s anticipated size and diversity in sample and data set—investigators and collaborators will be able to facilitate clinical research on a larger scale. This will allow VA sites to continue to demonstrate their commitment to science, research, and improving health outcomes for Veterans and their families.
*Information on how VA hospitals can participate in the VA SHIELD program and how specimens can be requested for research is provided on the VA SHIELD webpage.