Is cost-recovery for provision of human biological samples an acceptable for biobanks ?

What kind of financial transactions are legitimate for human biological samples? There is some uncertainty about the correct answer to this question. There are also some differences of opinion.


The Oviedo Convention

The Council of Europe’s Oviedo Convention (1997) is the first international legally binding instrument to protect human rights across the whole biomedical field. Article 21 of this high-level convention states that:

‘The human body and its parts shall not, as such, give rise to financial gain’.

Petrini and Ricciardi (2018) noted that people interpret article 21 in different ways. They suggest this is not due to any lack of clarity in the text. Instead, it is because people apply the convention to very different situations.

Evers et al. (2012) stated that ‘European law is based on principles that categorically prohibit selling parts of the human body’.

Lenk and Beier (2011)  point out that:‘… the ban on commercialisation of body material is not as strict as it may appear at first sight, leaving room for the commercial practice of tissue procurement and transfer’.


Explanatory Report To The Oviedo Convention

An explanatory report supplementing the Oviedo convention states that: ‘… technical acts (sampling, testing, pasteurisation, fractionation, purification, storage, culture, transport, etc.) which are performed on the basis of these items may legitimately give rise to reasonable remuneration.’


Under European law, it is legitimate for biobanks to charge a reasonable fee for human biological sample processing.

So what is a reasonable fee? Unfortunately, the law does not answer this question. However, a biobank cost recovery fee for sample supply must qualify as reasonable. Indeed, to charge any less, the biobank would be making a financial loss!

This article is on the Biosample Hub blog. Other posts in this blog include:

  1. Why Academic / Hospital Biobanks Should Provide Biosamples to Industry
  2. Ensuring Public Support For Biobank Cooperation With Industry
  3. The Main Actors Providing Biosamples To Industry
  4. Biosample Needs of Different Industry Players
  5. The Dual Role of Academic Biobanks
  6. What is Commodification?
  7. Acceptable Transactions in Biobanking
  8. Why Biobank Access Policies Should Be Publicly Available
  9. Biospecimen Provenance: What Researchers Need To Know

The Biosample Hub platform encourages ethical sourcing of biosamples for the industry sector.