A researcher working in a lab

At the Center for Health Research, we are able to pair Kaiser Permanente’s high-quality clinical data with DNA and other biological specimens, thus greatly extending the reach and potential of our scientific work.

Kaiser Permanente Northwest (KPNW) and CHR are committed to making these specimen resources available for collaborative scientific research. The Advisory for Biospecimen Committee (ABC) governs research use of these local resources, which are housed in the Northwest Research Laboratory (NWRL) and Northwest Tissue Library (NWTL).

Northwest Research Laboratory

Our state-of-the-art Northwest Research Laboratory (NWRL) contains data and biospecimens representing a broad range of health plan members and health conditions. The lab includes blood-derived DNA samples from the NW Biobank and several other biospecimens. These resources are rapidly improving our understanding of the genetic and environmental factors implicated in disease, as well as our ability to find new ways to detect, treat, and prevent disease. The lab is managed by Shawn Westaway, PhD, who has more than 25 years of experience with lab management, genetics and genomics research, and quality control.

From 2009 to 2016, KPNW members were recruited for several studies that relied on blood specimens donated to the Northwest Biobank (NWBB). The NWBB specimens, along with several additional study cohorts, are now housed at the NWRL. This legacy biobank is no longer recruiting participants, but its specimens are still being used for important studies. It includes blood samples from volunteers who met specific criteria; examples of these participant groups are shown in the table below. Participants were counted only once, in the category for which they were recruited:

Category of Participant

Number of Participants



Cancer (breast, prostate, and lung)




Cardiovascular diagnosis


Women at increased risk of ovarian cancer


Clinical depression


80 years of age or older


Healthy individuals



  • Approximately 60,000 specimens from about 40,000 individuals
  • Demographics:
    • 56% female
    • 90% 40 years of age or older
    • 83% white

Northwest Tissue Library

The Northwest Tissue Library (NWTL) consists of archival paraffin-embedded tissue samples from patients in the Portland metro area that were originally collected for clinical diagnostic purposes. These specimens have been successfully accessed for numerous research studies.


  • The library includes more than 3.5 million individual tissue blocks dating back to 1971. The blocks contain both normal and tumor tissue.
  • The biospecimens have been fixed in 10% neutral buffered formalin and then embedded in paraffin blocks.
  • We also have slides associated with the 3.5 million tissue blocks, with staining as ordered by initial pathology review or requested subsequently at the request of a KPNW pathologist for clinical purposes. This generally includes a Hematoxylin and eosin (H & E) stain and may include other special stains particular to cancer or other diagnostic needs.

Clinical Data

Samples collected at KPNW can be linked to electronic medical record and administrative data, and transformed into a common data model stored in the Virtual Data Warehouse (VDW). The common data model facilitates research that utilizes combinations of data from multiple source databases, or includes combinations of data across multiple institutions.

Cancer research studies can utilize the KPNW Tumor Registry—a centralized registry of all cancer patients diagnosed since 1960—which tracks a patient’s course of care after a cancer diagnosis. The Tumor Registry contains data on staging, treatment, and survival, as well as detailed pathology and cytology reports.

Opportunities for prospective collection

If a study requires specific samples that are not currently available at KPNW, external researchers may collaborate with a CHR investigator on a new study involving prospective collection of samples. To inquire about this type of study, please contact the Advisory for Biospecimen Committee, who will coordinate with CHR investigators who may be interested in such a collaboration.

Research Data Warehouse

The CHR-Northwest Research Data Warehouse (RDW) is a store of research-ready data accumulated from a wide range of sources including electronic medical records, insurance claims, state records, and legacy data systems. The RDW incorporates 55 tables which have been used and validated by many research projects and internal data monitoring processes. Research Data Warehouse tables include data related to health care utilization, demographics, lab, treatments administered via infusion, enrollment, death, pharmacy, tumor registry, oncology, pathology, and more.

KP Research Bank

The mission of the Kaiser Permanente Research Bank is to facilitate cutting-edge research by making large-scale genetic, molecular, environmental, and health information available to scientists. The KP Research Bank includes clinical data and blood samples from all seven KP regions, resulting in a large and highly diverse study population.

Learn more at www.kp.org/researchbank

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