Molecular Pathology and Biobanking


Enabling Technologies

Molecular Pathology and Biobanking

The Molecular Pathology Programme at CCRCB is at the forefront of academic Molecular Pathology and Molecular Diagnostics in the UK. The molecular pathology diagnostic unit is a partnership between CCRCB and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust (BHSCT).

Molecular Pathology and Biobanking

Professor Manuel Salto-Tellez and Dr Jackie James, Lead Investigators

Other members: Peter Hamilton, Stephen McQuaid, Perry Maxwell, Darragh McArt

It includes:

  • Northern Ireland - Molecular Pathology Laboratory (NI-MPL)
  • Northern Ireland Biobank (NIB)
  • Digital Pathology / Bioinformatics

Find out more below. 


The Northern Ireland - Molecular Pathology Laboratory (NI-MPL) is a self-contained, purpose-designed, nationally accredited (CPA / UKNEQAS) hybrid operation capable of performing molecular pathology translational research and molecular diagnostics of solid tumours. The molecular pathology diagnostic unit is a partnership between CCRCB and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust (BHSCT). 

The laboratory environment ensures the proper SoPs, procedure manuals and QA/QC schemes to exercise its hybrid role. This laboratory is able to provide research support to basic scientists willing to understand the clinical relevance of their research findings, academic oncologists willing to have biomarker analysis or validation in the context of clinical trials, and all those in need of high-quality, affordable molecular diagnostic testing in oncology.

Although it is in its early days, the Molecular Pathology Programme:

  • Analyses more than 1,000 samples for molecular diagnostics and more than 5,000 samples for research purposes annually;
  • Is a pillar of some of the key research programmes in CCRCB (Movember, MErCuRIC, S:CORT, CRUK and ECMC Centre status, etc.) totalling almost £20M;
  • Is the leading laboratory for the CRUK Accelerator programme on digital pathology and immune checkpoints (£3.9M);
  • Has been instrumental in the acknowledgement of Belfast as a Centre of Excellence for Precision Medicine (Innovate UK);
  • Has collaborated in some of the key industry developments in the area of molecular pathology / personalised medicine, such as the Tissue Mark Test (PathXL) and the DDRD test (ALMAC);
  • Supports key clinical trials in the Northern Ireland context;
  • Has generated more than 100 papers over the last 3-4 years, in key pathology journals (J Pathol, Modern Path) and general cancer and biology journals (CCR, CR, JNCI, Mol Cell, Oncotarget, EMBO MM);
  • Leads a new teaching programme for routine pathologists in molecular pathology.


Northern Ireland Biobank

Molecular Pathology research in Belfast involves academics at QUB and clinicians within the BHSCT Tissue Pathology laboratories and is underpinned by the Northern Ireland Biobank (NIB).  The NIB is funded primarily by the Health and Social Care (HSC) Research and Development (R&D) Division of the Northern Ireland Public Health Agency; it is also supported in part through the CRUK Centre grant, Prostate Cancer UK and a local charity, the Friends of the Cancer Centre.

The NIB is a member of the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER) and works closely with the UKCRC Tissue Directory and Coordination Centre.  It participates in the UK Confederation Of Cancer Biobanks Standards Programme and will seek to become ISBER compliant during 2016.

The NIB enhances translational cancer research through the quality assured targeted collection of tissues and bodily fluids (including normal and tumour tissues and blood samples) all linked to reliable clinical and pathological data sets.  The ability to apply for samples from the NIB has been active since August 2011; as of January 2016, the NIB has processed over 190 researcher applications and has distributed over 27,000 samples to 110.  The NIB has recently put in place a robust infrastructure to complement ongoing targeted collections with additional tissue collections associated with phase I-III trials run in the Belfast Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre.  

The NIB is supported by a secure, information management system. A close working relationship exists between the NIB and the NI Cancer Registry to ensure all samples processed for the bank are linked with robust de-identified clinical and pathological information collected from state of the art data repositories.

Further information about the NIB can be found at  Researchers wishing to access samples can do so via the online application system


Digital Pathology / Bioinformatics

Find out more here. 



Drug Discovery


Belfast ECMC