Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center opens specimen bank to advance research, seek cures

May 04, 2016

Hench Foundation funds state-of-the-art bio freezer.

Every day across the nation, biological specimens from surgeries or blood samples are discarded, but any one of these samples could hold  genetic material that potentially can unlock the secrets to some of our most lethal diseases.

This valuable genetic material is typically discarded because community hospitals rarely have the resources or technology to freeze and store this human tissue for long periods of time. 

Thanks to a $200,000 grant from the Hench Foundation, Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center’s Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center has acquired a bio specimen repository that can hold up to 45,000 specimens. Liquid nitrogen cools the bio specimen freezer to an unfathomable -190 degrees Celsius, protecting blood and tissues for optimum research conditions. This bank of genetic material will help researchers at Providence and around the world unlock the secrets to the treatment of cancers, heart disease, neurological disorders and a myriad of other illnesses.

“The forward thinking and incredible generosity of The Hench Foundation marks a significant step forward for the research program at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center,” said Julie Sprengel, the hospital’s chief executive. “In time we all may benefit from this amazing resource as we strive to translate genetic research done in the lab to medications given at the bedside.”

Three other hospitals within the five-state, 34-hospital Providence Health & Services system have bio specimen repositories and will share data with Providence Saint Joseph.

This is the Hench Foundation’s second contribution to cancer care at Providence Saint Joseph. The first-floor library and resource center at the Disney Family Cancer Center was funded by the organization to help patients and their families understand their illnesses, their treatment options and other facets of their experiences with cancer.

“This very generous donation will enhance our research and it will lead to new discoveries,” said oncologist Raul Mena, M.D., medical director of the Disney Family Cancer Center. “Our new freezer provides a key step to Providence Saint Joseph becoming a regional research center.”