COVID-19 Biobank / Kohikohinga Taonga Kowheori

The ESR COVID-19 Biobank (ESR Kohikohinga Taonga Kowheori) is an initiative to process, store and track biological samples gathered for COVID-19 research. The secure facility hosts SARS-CoV-2 positive samples, including from saliva, nasopharyngeal swabs in viral media and samples of plasma and serum, from both acute (with symptoms) and convalescent (recovered) donors.

The ESR COVID-19 Biobank

Samples in the ESR COVID-19 Biobank span the course of the pandemic and are sourced both nationally and internationally, providing excellent coverage of the COVID-19 landscape. The biobank includes de-identified and identifiable biospecimens with relevant clinical information to support ethically approval research.

Kohikohinga Taonga Kowheori translates to “A gifted collection of COVID-19 samples”. The biobank is committed to following Tikanga Māori and giving effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Māori are represented across all levels of the biobank, from leadership to governance and scientific guidance, as well as the handling and distribution of samples. 

About biobanking

Biobanks plays a significant role in hospitals and research centres around the world. They are an essential part of research and development of better diagnostic tools and new therapies as well as furthering our understanding of diseases.

When we receive COVID-19 biobank samples they are first processed. This may include further aliquoting and de-identification, as well as relabelling with unique biobanking codes. Following this samples are stored and recorded in our secure electronic database system. Any identifiable or clinically relevant information is stored separately.

Governance group

The COVID-19 Biobank is supported by the ESR Biobank Governance Group. This group provides overarching kaitiakitanga (guardianship) of samples, and ensures a fair and transparent process is followed from collection through to distribution. Representation on this group covers a broad range of expertise and includes scientific, non-scientific and Māori representation, which makes up over 50 percent of the governance group in total.

For researchers

ESR COVID-19 Biobank collects, stores and distributes COVID-19 samples for research purposes. Researchers requesting identifiable information relating to samples will need to obtain ethical approval for their research before their application can be considered.

Our secure electronic database system enables us to track storage locations and individual samples efficiently to ensure banked samples can be monitored at all times and to minimize the risk of sample loss.

Apply to the COVID-19 Biobank

If you want to know more about using the COVID-19 Biobank for research or diagnostic purposes, we encourage you to contact us as early as possible to discuss your project and to help set realistic goals.

Download the ESR Biobank Application for Access to Samples

Download the ESR Biobank Terms and Conditions

Once an application is received and accepted there is a two to three week turnaround time before an outcome can be given. If anyone is interested in accessing COVID-19 samples for their research or to help diagnostic validations using COVID-19 samples, please contact for more information on what is available and the application process.